Final harvest for Devizes spud boss
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Plank's Potatoes, which have nourished generations of Devizes people, is closing down after founder Brian Plank decided to call it a day.
Mr Plank, of Manor Farm, Lydeway, started up the business nearly 50 years ago on the sudden death of his father, Donald, at the age of 55.
But problems with his back and the rise in supermarket shopping have now put paid to the firm, which will wind up when the current harvest is sold.
Mr Plank said: “I started up the potatoes as soon as I took over the farm when I was 19. I built it up and, at its peak, I had 50 acres planted and was selling 1,000 bags of spuds a week.
“I had a round in Salisbury, Tidworth and Warminster, as well as Devizes. The farthest I used to go was Lambourn.”
But in recent years supermarket sales have seriously eroded the business, as has the public’s taste for rice, pasta and pizza.
Mr Plank said: “I still supply smaller supermarkets like Nisa and Budgens, but people tend to like washed spuds these days, which have a shorter shelf life.”
His biggest customer is now Dauntsey’s School, which takes 80 bags a week.
Along with the rest of the farming industry, this year’s appalling weather has hit the potato harvest.
Mr Plank said: “We are down by between 30 or 40 per cent. I have never known it to be this bad. I wasn’t even going to bother with this year’s harvest but because it is so bad everywhere, there is demand for whatever we can supply.”
But it is not the poor harvest that is killing off Plank’s Potatoes with its little Potato Man logo and its ‘Plank’s Potatoes Please’ motto.
Mr Plank said: “My back is causing me terrible problems so I am taking it that it is nature’s way of telling me to pack it in.”
Mr Plank and his wife, Diz, sold their dairy herd in 1997 because of the erosion in the price for milk and began to diversify.
They created a retail park in The Old Potato Yard on the farm and ten units are now leased out, including the popular Plank’s Farm Shop, the brainchild of the Planks’ son Nick.
Mrs Plank said: “We are lucky people come to us to rent space.
“The way farming is, we couldn’t survive here without it.”