Mann Potatoes are one of our six shareholding farms. They are a 6th generation family run farm, starting in 1870 as tenant farmers and buying their farm in 1950.
Owners of Hill Farm, Iken are Richard and Natasha Mann. There are other farms in Suffolk and Essex owned/run by Richard Mann’s brothers.
When Richard was young most farms had a dairy with approx 30-40 cows, now they are mostly just arable. They have recently decided to keep 250 organic rare breed Lincoln Red cows. The Lincoln Reds attract a special bird called egret and other wildlife.
Richard says growing up on the farm was different to today’s farming. "I had chores on the farm like feeding the calves before school and help feeding the older cows at the weekends". "There were more people working on the farms before because of the running dairy and machinery/technology not being as efficient as today".
Farming now is more intense and requires tighter budgets. With technological improvements they are able to buy more efficient machinery which means better time management and better crops, which unfortunately means less staff and more stress!
The most useful advance in farming for Richard is the satellite guidance inside tractors and technology in machines which reduces costs and are much more accurate.
All family members get involved with the farm; Richard's children grew up surrounded by the farm and helped out whenever possible. Peter, the oldest son, now works on the farm full time and manages the day to day organisation and workers for potatoes.
Natasha, Richard's wife, is responsible for the livestock on the farm, and their other sons Toby and Angus help out on the farm around school/college. Other family members come in and contract work when required to keep work within the family as much as possible.
At first Richard saw farming as a business opportunity to create a financial and stable life for his family, but it all led to a lifestyle choice rather than a business. He wasn’t always sure about being a farmer so he explored other options first and even become an accountant and studied business law, but these skills have not been wasted as he now uses them to look after the finance side of his farm.
The main priorities for Mann Potatoes is to grow profitable crops in an environmentally friendly fashion, whilst maintaining a healthy happy workforce.
Richard says "the hardest part of farming for him is all the paperwork side", whilst Peter, the Farm Manager, says "it is staff motivation".
What’s makes them most satisfied about their work is "High Quality crops and doing a good job and everything going to plan without any problems".
Richard's favourite potato that he has ever grown is called “Arran Victory” bred in 1918 to celebrate the end of the First World War, it is a heritage variety which was re-introduced to Waitrose 10 years ago – lovely flavour, difficult to grow but the best eating potato and good profit. More recently it would be King Edward's. They are a very popular, nice tasting, 5 star potato – multipurpose and you get a good profit if you have a good crop.
What makes Mann Potatoes different from competitors?
They are a family run farm; they have more varieties for niche markets; they stay out of the main crop generic market, and don’t want to be main-stream. They want to add value to their produce and be more special. Quality over quantity any day for them!