In our latest Growing With OMEX series, we talk with OMEX Agriculture DSM Ben Blom, from petals to potatoes.
Name: Ben Blom
Hobbies: Golf! I’ve been a member of my local golf club for 35 years now. Many of my customers will know that we hold our local breakfast meeting at Ely Golf Club, however I actually haven’t played a game there yet!
I love nearly all sports and watch a lot of Rugby, Football, Tennis and Golf when I can. A great weekend away for me is walking in hills in the Lake district or Derbyshire. There are not many hills in South Lincolnshire where I live.
Favourite Food: I do love a good piece of duck with roast potatoes , oh and salmon with new potatoes and broccoli. But you can’t beat a Sunday Roast with all the trimmings.
Pets: I have a black Labrador called Lola. She loves long walks and particularly enjoys fetching a ball at the beach and swimming in the sea.
When Did You Start Working With OMEX
I started with OMEX back in 2009. Due to my background in both agriculture and horticulture I had lots of experience and knowledge that aligned with OMEX. I was leaving my last job due to the company being sold and planned to take a 3 month sabbatical with my family, however I got a call from OMEX and never looked back! I started straight away looking after farmers in Cambridgeshire and still look after the same area to this day, which gives our customers consistency, and I have the knowledge of their past seasons.
What Is Your Agricultural Background
I come from a family of flower growers. Originally, my grandfather grew roses in Holland. When the Tulip industry in the UK started, my father came over and started off as a Dutch representative selling tulip bulbs into the country, later making a move into agriculture as farm manager of a large estate. He then went on to start up the family business which I became a partner in and then eventually took over. We were largely a horticultural business and our primary market was flowers, mainly for supermarkets. I had a large glasshouse nursery and used to grow tulips, gladioli, lilies and at one time a lot of iris – which I’ll admit was not my favourite crop as they often needed cropping again on a warm Sunday afternoon! I did grow some agricultural crops alongside too, such as wheat, mainly for rotational purposes. In 2009 I sold my nursery and land, then joined a flower business supplying into supermarkets, using my knowledge to source quality flowers, traveling to many countries around the world, learning different growing techniques in the process.
Your Specialty Crop
In Cambridgeshire we deal with a lot of Cereals, Potatoes and Sugar Beet, but I’d say my key crop is potatoes.
What Would Be Your Advice For Growing Potatoes This Spring
After this really wet weather, it’s important to be feeding the crop well enough and getting it off to a good start. A lot of the land is still going to be very wet, so we’ll be planting in sub-optimal conditions, meaning it’s crucial that growers maintain SAP testing throughout the season to check up on the crop and make sure it’s developing well. SAP analysis will tell us what the plant needs, and we can top up the nutrients with foliar feeds throughout the season to make sure the plant still produces a high yielding, high quality, produce.
Keep an eye on your crops, at every stage, it’s more critical this year than any other.
Have You Seen Many Changes Over The Last 12 Years
Absolutely. For one thing machinery is getting larger, we’re talking about bigger potato harvesters, larger sprayer booms…equipment generally is just getting bigger. I remember when I started 24m was the norm for a sprayer boom, now the standard is 36m. Both contractors in my area have been applying Suspension fertiliser at 36 metres for several seasons, which means fewer wheelings for our customers and the ability to follow tram lines at 36 metres if our customer requires them to do so.
Technically, the industry is advancing at a rapid rate, utilizing things such as drones to look at crops, which gives us a better overview of a growing crop, helping to locate areas of concern.
Your Contractor Team
I’ve worked with Richard Redhead and Matt Benstead ever since I started at OMEX, so for 12 years now. Farmers in my area will be familiar with both, applying Suspension Fertiliser with OMEX for a number of years. We’ve got a great working relationship that’s spanned over the past decade so we can work together to ensure the farmer gets their product applied when they need it. It’s a fantastic management tool for farmers.
The Importance of a Family Run Business
Coming from my own family run business, and now working within OMEX who are also family run, there’s a strong personable feel, and a vested interest within the success of the business.
What’s Your Favourite Part About Working With OMEX
I enjoy meeting my farming customers and exchanging likeminded views, whilst keeping up to date with what is actually happening out in the real world on Farm. Then It’s just being out there, in the countryside. It’s amazing how much wildlife you see, out and about – looking at fields. I’ve seen adders in one area and then deer in another amongst many other animals and birds. You’re out there seeing nature when you’re looking at crops, and it’s just fantastic.