Friday 20th May was a momentous and highly meaningful day for Valley Grown Nurseries’ owners Jimmy & Vince Russo. Almost 200 guests were finally able to celebrate the opening of VGN’s new glasshouse extension in Nazeing, Essex. After many years of angst, frustration as well as considerable cost in order to defend their right to build a sustainable agricultural development, the outcome could have been a very different one. Sense prevailed and the brothers were able to finally realise their dream.

Amongst the guests were members of the National Farmers’ Union, VGS/VGN’s primary supermarket customer Waitrose as well as many of those who had built, supported and offered crucial advice and guidance at every stage of the development. These were the people who also had a vision. A vision to support the owners as well as the production of more British fresh produce in the Lea Valley, meaning less reliance on food imports and ensuring that more jobs are created now and into the future.

The formal opening and cutting of the ribbon was performed by President of the National Farmers’ Union, Meurig Raymond. Mr Raymond said: “There is tremendous scope to grow more salad crops to meet public demand, but modern agriculture and horticulture require investment in modern buildings and modern facilities. That’s why this development is so welcome. I hope we will see more schemes like this in the future.”

Jimmy Russo said “This project has no downside and hopefully this has set a precedent for all growers regarding planning. I also want to give special thanks to my brother Vince who has been involved at every single stage of the building process.”

Lee Stiles, NFU Secretary of the Lea Valley Growers’ Association, said: “During the 1950s, the Lea Valley had the highest concentration of glasshouses in the world but the growing area has since declined by 80 per cent.” He added: “We have a great opportunity to grow more local food, cut food imports and create local jobs through glasshouse expansion.”

Another special guest at the opening event was Alan Wilson, Head of Agronomy at Waitrose. Addressing the audience and the Russo brothers, he said: “Another important speaker at the iconic event was Alan Wilson, Head of Agronomy at Waitrose. Alan said: “This is a statement of your relationship with your team, your industry and your community and country. We at Waitrose are immensely proud of what you’ve achieved. We know this has been a long process and we will do our best to support you.”

Just prior to an Italian-style buffet and a series of site tours around the state-of-the-art facility, Vince Russo rounded off the speeches and presentations by saying: “We have finally realised our ambition and dream to build something so iconic within the fresh produce industry. This whole project has taken just one year to build and we are understandably proud. I am sure this development will become a significant blueprint for future developers in our industry. My thanks also go to two very special people, without whom my job would have been a lot harder. These people are Ton Schrover of SCA Consultancy and Joe Masucci, one of our very own VGS drivers.”