“In the last ten years we have specialised in parsnips and potatoes. We also grow cereals for rotation purposes. Ten years ago, we bought a suckler herd and we have 80 beef cattle here at the moment.”

The Thornes own 130 acres and – including conacre – farm 650 acres in total. They have forged a stellar reputation for growing excellent quality potatoes and parsnips and this has seen John Thorne & Sons evolve into one of the largest parsnip producers in the country.

“We grow 160 acres of parsnips and that keeps us very busy during the winter,” John continues.

“We wash and bag our potatoes ourselves and these are sold to wholesalers around the country” John Jnr notes.

The range produced includes Ware Potatoes, Bakers and Mini Potatoes. The family provides gainful employment to a team of 15 for most of the year, which can go up to 20-25 during peak. Their fleet of machinery comprises seven tractors – three New Hollands, three Massey Fergusons and one John Deere.

A self-propelled parsnip harvester can do four rows at a time. With that machine, Thornes can harvest in one-fifth of the time and at a much lower cost. Thornes also operate a self-propelled Grimme harvester, a John Deere combine for cutting corn, and a couple of delivery lorries.
With the machinery Thornes have now, they can fill any order; if a customer needed an extra six tonnes of parsnips, they could be picked in an hour.

“We place a huge emphasis on quality. We have a good agronomist here, Johnny Hogan, who was actually my teacher when I did my Green Cert in Warrenstown Agricultural College.

“We use the best inputs and the parsnips are monitored closely and looked after by Matt all summer to ensure they are good to go for the winter time. We harvest them properly, making sure there is no damage and we use the most up-to-date washing systems.”

Quality doesn’t just happen by chance – to get the best quality produce, you have to keep your eye on the ball all the time.”