Making and Leaving Positive Impressions
Husband and wife team Guy and Emily French started the business with 90 acres in 2007 and have grown their cropping area to over 200 acres of both owned and rented ground in Essex. In 2015 the couple set up a “pick your own” option for pumpkins and gourds around Basildon and Colchester. In addition to pumpkins, the family grows and supplies locally-grown Norman Fir Christmas Trees near Upminster for the surrounding community.
Quality products and positive experiences are important for the French family. “We have a very high foot-fall of customers, including high-profile celebrities and it’s important to always make a good impression,” Guy French emphasises. “We want the facilities to be remembered for being both clean, welcoming and well-managed. We want our customers to come back again and again.”
Autumn and winter periods are the busiest at the farm because pick your own facilities are open from mid-September through to the end of October. Christmas trees are available to the public from the end of November. Summer is also a busy time; the farm holds a farm mud run for families, children, teams and clubs.
Managing grass for high traffic and convenient parking
“Because we get thousands of vehicles through the busy season car parking is a major task,” added Guy. “Managing the turf to ensure it can withstand such heavy traffic comes as a big challenge. We have about thirty acres of parking and amenity grassland that we must take care of. Above-all avoid vehicles getting stuck when the weather is less favourable. Customers won’t come back if they get stuck all the time so this is a big focus for us.”
“We used to use flail mowers but they didn’t leave the best finish. Recently we changed-up to a new Major rotary mower which has proven to be a first-class decision. What a difference!”
Major Swift endorsed by local authorities and groundscare professionals
Local dealer R C Boreham demonstrated the Major Swift Roller Mower and the family were sold on it immediately. “I’d seen the Major Swift at work through our local council and groundscare contractors and was impressed with the finish it left,” enthused Guy. “Getting a demonstration to try it out on our own grounds and facilities meant we could be sure it was the right machine. We were so impressed, that we didn’t let them take the demonstrator back, we decided to buy it on the spot and we are extremely happy with how it has helped us improve the performance of our parking areas big time.”
Foxes Farm Produce acquired the Major MJ71-400, a three-point linkage winged roller mower in 4.0m cutting width. It folds for a transport width of just 1.9m. Customised gear boxes turn six rotors, each fitted with 4 blades. The twelve blades overlap by 60mm, turning in opposing directions to ensure nothing is missed.
Full width, front and rear rollers maintain an even cutting height without scalping, even on undulating ground. The rollers aid compaction as well as leaving a striped finish. Built with Strenx™ 700 MC high-performance steel and hot-dip galvanised to EN ISO 1461:2009 specifications, this premium mower is made for strength and endurance.
Improved grass and ground conditions within one season
Through the season, the grass areas of the farm business are often under-sown and cut at around 50mm on a weekly basis. It takes around six hours to cover the grass parking and amenity areas.
“After having used the Major for many passes, the difference in grass and ground condition has improved remarkably over the flail system,” continues Guy. “The rollers help compact the ground. The grass is not only evenly cut, but is shredded and clippings disappear into the turf very quickly. It’s certainly helped us in conditioning the car park areas - so much so that last autumn, even after we’d had around two hundred millimetres (200mm) of rain and with thirty acres of car parking, we never had to tow anyone out through the entire season. That’s testament to the capabilities of the Major Swift in helping us to achieve a perfect finish.”
“The Major Swift is a very simple machine to operate and maintain,” commented Guy. “There are no belts to adjust, just a straight gear-drive to the rotors, it’s just a simple grease-around, and it washes off easily, because of the galvanised finish. The blades are easy to sharpen or replace too but we’ve not needed to do much with that yet. Our local dealer, Boreham’s have been first class in installing the machine and providing parts back-up when we need it.”
“Because of the construction and build of the Major Swift, I’m confident that this machine will last us in excess of ten years - which is a great investment in the future needs of our business. But more importantly, the finish it leaves behind, with striped fields and an even cut, reflects the kind of attention to detail that we put into everything we do. Showing our customers, celebrities and also our landlords that we care about our business, our produce and our presentation, speaks volumes.”