04

November

2008

Fertile Fibre – A Potted History

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Fertile Fibre was the brain child of Robert Hurst way back in 1989. Robert and Kim Hurst had been growing aromatic and scented foliage plants and herbs since 1976 as The Cottage Herbery. They grow everything organically and to medal winning standards.

Waste not want not

At this time Robert was also a hop farmer in Worcestershire. The waste left after harvesting –  a mixture of leaves, stems and the coir string used to support the hops –  was composted for use in the nursery. He was looking for a low-salt alternative to compost.

“We realised that our coir string composted very well indeed. We had heard about coir being used for composting in countries where peat is unknown,” explains Rob. “It is widely popular in the USA, Australia and the Far East. So I wondered if this could be developed for our own use.”

Back in 1990 coir was also a waste material. After considerable research, Rob located a source of supply in Sri Lanka. He took delivery of his first two sacks of coir in a Heathrow Airport car park.

Three heads are better than one

It was at this time that Robert approached W.L. Dingleys for help in producing an organic nutrient. With Bob Ubenski’s help, it wasn’t long until the right nutrient was identified and production was started.

One of Rob’s friends was the late Geoff Hamilton. Geoff was renowned as Britain’s favourite gardener through his work for the BBC on TV and radio. He provided wonderful advice in the development of Rob’s growing media/compost mixes.

Together the three of them trialled and analyse different recipes until they had the right combinations for production. The result is the formulation for today’s Fertile Fibre range of multipurpose, potting and seed composts.

Getting approval from the Soil Association

The next stage was to ensure that the compost would be accepted to organic standards, and meet the stringent requirements of The Soil Association. This required locating coir grown to accredited organic standards.  That done, Rob started buying coir by the container load.

Word of mouth

Sales started by word of mouth and the word soon spread. Robert produced award-winning plants in his own organic compost, which was unheard of. Both Fertile Fibre and The Cottage Herbery grew throughout the 1990s. The labour-intensive hops had long gone. As sales of Fertile Fibre grew,  Rob and Kim found they were getting further away from their great love of growing plants. To allow them more time to devote to the nursery, they sought a buyer for Fertile Fibre.

A hop across to Fertile Fibre

Matthew Dent bought the business in August 2004.  Matthew was no stranger to the farm or Fertile Fibre. He had been renting Robert’s hop yards for the previous ten years. Robert was more than happy to pass the company on to a friend.

Robert continues to help with Fertile Fibre enquiries. He also deals with product trialling which is still done with the Cottage Herbery. The company moved to new space in the winter of 2004. We continue to invest in new machinery. To meet demand production capacity has increased twice. Fertile Fibre continues to prioritise quality and traceability.

How to buy from us

Take a look around our online shop, packed with products from composts to perlite, seaweed extracts to organic fertilizers. Or you’re welcome to email us at info@fertilefibre.com or call us on 01432 853111.

Come visit us

We’re open to the public and would love to see you. Find out more at Organise A Group Tour To Fertile Fibre in Herefordshire.

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