The Oldershaw family have been farming for three generations and look set to continue for at least another three. They've seen the rise of shallots from the preserve of chefs, to the store cupboard staple they are today.
It was quite a different story though when Gilbert Oldershaw (MBE) began farming with his brother in 1946 in South Lincolnshire. They grew onions, garlic and some shallots. Starting small, they took some calculated risks and saw demand dramatically increase. Gilbert’s son, Robert, joined the business and he too soon became an expert grower. Today the growing is his responsibility. This expertise is essential as shallots are a specialist crop and they need a lot of care and attention to grow. For example sowing the exact amount of seeds in a bed is crucial. Too many plants will mean the shallots will be too small, too few plants and the shallots will be too big. Size does matter. Furthermore, the desire for perfect skin isn’t just a human trait, shallots need it too. Blemishes are bad news and they’re avoided partly by ensuring that the shallots are perfectly dry before they are stored. While they can be quite high maintenance to grow, fortunately shallots have almost magical storing qualities. These are further enhanced by the curing process. The Oldershaw brothers, having grown onions and tried out a new approach to curing, decided to try this method with shallots. It was highly successful and it wasn’t long before Oldershaws of Moulton were upheld as a demonstration farm – whereby other growers could come and see how this new process was done. The business grew from strength to strength and the Oldershaws saw a processing and packing business opportunity emerge.
Soon enough, Moulton Bulb Co Ltd – the packing and processing operation began, with Gilbert’s grandson, Robert at the helm. Robert studied Food Marketing and Management at Sheffield. And, not surprisingly the innovation continues apace. “We’ve always been a business to jump in and give it a go,” says Robert Oldershaw (Jnr) who a director of both Moulton Bulb and Oldershaws of Moulton Ltd, the growing side of the business. Packaging is another area that has changed considerably over the years. Shallots used to be sold in nets, then in polybags and now they are mostly sold in form-filled pillow packs or more recently loose. Moulton Bulb are acutely aware of the need to reduce the reliance on packaging and as such, are now selling more shallots and echalions in the loose format than ever before.
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