Tofthill has been farmed by the Stewarts and their ancestors for a number of generations, however, the current business was founded by Jim and Mary Stewart in 1975 when Jim took the rent of Tofthill Farm from his Grandfather.
In those early days Jim and Mary operated with one employee, minimal equipment and kept a lot of cattle and sheep. Unfortunately, operating in this manner was not sufficiently profitable to help buy the farm outright so the decision was taken to move into raspberries and strawberries. Alongside this they grew cash crops such as swede, sprouts, calabrese and potatoes to augment the soft fruit production. Through this they managed to acquire the farm outright.
In those immediate years following the farm acquisition the business needed to be highly cash generative in order to finance the funding required. There was an extremely high interest rate regime in the UK and that forced Jim and Mary to become more efficient, which in turn meant specialising in fewer produce lines. They decided to focus on swede, soft fruit, sprouts and potatoes, but relatively quickly they dropped the sprouts and then the potatoes so that they could concentrate on swede. Swede is a natural crop for the East of Scotland growing environment and Jim felt there was a gap in the market for the business to expand in that area, particularly with where the farm is sited and their growing reputation. The rest as they say is history, and over the next 20 years the company steadily grew to be one of the largest growers in the UK.
Alongside the expanding swede enterprise, the soft fruit business was also growing. The local area is synonymous with growing soft fruit, particularly raspberries, so between the climate and the natural seasonal fit with growing swede it worked well for the business. In the early days raspberries were to the forefront and these were grown for the processing markets, which was a big industry at the time. However, demands for fresh produce intensified so in the early 90’s a decision was made to switch to the fresh market, which proved to be much more profitable.
In 1995 Jim and Mary welcomed Jim’s younger brother, Will, together with his wife Sheena, to the company. This added further impetus, particularly on the soft fruit where Will had a lifetime of experience. Thereafter, working closely together on swede and soft fruit, the two families have grown the company steadily to its current status of being the largest grower of swede in the UK and the largest independent soft fruit grower in Scotland. This has been achieved by working closely with their customers, including some of the major national supermarket chains who increasingly sought direct sourcing of produce, which has long been our key selling point – the ability to grow, harvest, pack, and deliver entirely under our own direction.