Jumping the fence – transitioning from buyer to grower

Am Lance

Waitrose buyer Amy Lance is embarking on a journey that is unusual, if not unique, among her peers. She will spend her sabbatical getting to know the parts of the supply chain that other buyers rarely see. Produce Business UK will chart her progress, because we know you’ll want to find out more

How can anyone truly understand the pressures, challenges and opportunities within an industry without real, tangible experience?

Over the past eight years, I have often asked myself this question.

Whilst working as a buyer and technical manager for Waitrose and Tesco UK I have come across so many aspects of the global fresh produce supply chain in which I really wanted to delve deeper, experience first-hand and learn more about.

At last, in May 2016 my 12-month sabbatical begins. I have left behind my day job as a Waitrose produce buyer and I am about to set off to spend each day miles from the UK, wearing overalls, steel toe cap boots and rolled up sleeves. During my year, I will be working in the bright sunshine on commercial farms in rural California, Senegal and South Africa to experience the production side of fresh produce at the sharp end.

By following the fruit I have been purchasing in the UK back to its source, I aim to understand the supply chain in far greater detail. I want to learn from the farming teams and investigate opportunities to minimise post-harvest losses and work closely with the local communities. I also hope to use some of my experience to help farms identify future challenges and opportunities.

I will be working across all aspects of production; from sowing, transplanting and working in greenhouse production to irrigation, field preparation, composting, cultivation/weeding and animal husbandry. Ultimately, anything else that needs to be done on a farm will be my job! Whilst I’m away I’ve even managed to fit in a short time studying at the University of California, Davis to brush up on some technical post-harvest skills.

I think this experience will allow me to develop a unique perspective as a modern-day retail buyer, and build a far broader base of knowledge across the entire fresh produce supply chain.

Throughout the year, I will be sharing my thoughts on Produce Business UK, and also giving quick updates and posting photos as @Flying_Fruit on Twitter and Instagram.

I look forward to receiving your feedback.



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