Ben Brown’s Farm – The Isle of Wight

A E Brown Farms are based on the Isle of Wight producing high quality asparagus, sweetcorn, and wide range of vegetables. They are one of the best known Isle of Wight producers and over the Easter break, we went over to visit Ben and his asparagus fields.

Asparagus is one of the most sought after vegetables. Its subtle flavour offers a real treat during the short time it is in season.

Ben's Farm on the Island

Ben’s Farm on the Island

On the tour Ben took us inside a large Farm Building where the asparagus is taken once picked. This is where the sorting machine is, last year this machine processed 70 tonnes of asparagus (250g bunches = 280,000 bunches), an enormous amount of asparagus considering the asparagus season is only 10 weeks long!

This is the machine that trims and grades the asparagus

This is the machine that trims and grades the asparagus

This machine takes the freshly picked asparagus in one end, cleans and cuts it ready for optical sorting, meaning it passes through many cameras inside the machine which is constantly scanning the asparagus for diameter, length, curvature, head shape, and colour. During this sorting process, the asparagus spears are rotated so that 100% of their surface area is photographed. An incredible piece of kit that can process the asparagus from field to packing and fogging (a system that stops the asparagus dehydrating during transport to allow it to remain as fresh as possible) in 45 minutes.

The asparagus beds

The asparagus beds

Ben then takes us to the asparagus beds. These beds are as far as the eye can see, but when we arrived this is all we saw, bear in mind that this was Easter and they will start picking 2 weeks after this!

When planted, the crown will be about the size of a jam jar lid, this will then stay in the ground sending up fresh tasty and edible shoots for approximately 12 – 15 years. Eventually, the crown will become the size of a dustbin lid. Each crown can produce up to 70 shoots during the season.

Asparagus grown by the Brown family, was served as part of the lavish Jubilee banquet attended by Her Royal Highness the Queen and 700 guests at Westminster Hall and was served as part of the banquet for the celebration of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding.  

Once the short asparagus season it’s over to the Sweetcorn production.  At this time, the fields are covered in plastic to protect the young plants from any remaining frost that might still be lingering. Once they are sure the frost is over, the plastic will be replaced with fleece.

This tasty crop will be ready to harvest on the 22nd – 25th July, 2 artic lorries a day will leave this farm ready for delivery to the mainland.

These crops are hand-picked by only 8 workers, that’s a lot of corn.

After the corn is finished the farm moves onto Squash and small pumpkins and after that they go into a steady harvest of cauliflowers.  This farm is constantly on the go.

Ben showing us his fields of asparagus, or, where the asparagus will be in a couple of weeks time.

Ben showing us his fields of asparagus, or, where the asparagus will be in a couple of weeks time.

Interesting facts:

  • The asparagus season traditionally runs from St George’s Day to the Summer Solstice.
  • Asparagus contains A, B and C vitamins, fibre and folic acid, and is virtually fat-free. These nutrients can boost your immune system, maintain healthy skin, nails and hair, and are good for the heart.
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