How Does The Garden Factory Grow?

A group of students studying on an Environmental and Land-based Studies Diploma recently got the chance to visit one of the largest tomato growers in the UK.

The five learners from Washington, Biddick School Sports College and St Robert of Newminster RC Schools, who are taking the 2-year course at East Durham College’s Houghall Campus, spent the day at John Baarda Ltd in Billingham on Teesside.

The facility, which opened in 2006, was set up to grow tomatoes all year round and supplies the likes of Sainsbury’s and Morrisons. It has the capacity to grow in excess of 6m vines a year, producing over 2,000 metric tons of 'Grade A' salad quality mature tomatoes.

Dawn James, a Lecturer in Horticulture at the Houghall Campus arranged the visit to help the students with a unit of their course: Plants and Animals -Their Role in Society.

“This was a fantastic opportunity for the learners to see commercial food production including growing, harvesting and packaging on a massive scale,” she said.

The students also got to quiz John Baarda Manager Michael Le Masurier on the social, economical and environmental impact of the business, as well as learning how the organisation balances their commercial, cultural and ethical responsibilities.

“It was an absolute pleasure to show the students around and answer all their questions. We’d be more than happy to offer the tour to Dawn’s students in the future,” he said.

East Durham College runs the course in partnership with Sunderland Futures enabling the students to study two half days at the College to complete the vocational qualification.