Spalding 1 Coast and Country Auctions


Spalding 1

Series looking at Britain's traditional markets. Spalding Plant and Vegetable Auction in Lincolnshire is the oldest market of its kind in the UK.


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Transcript


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We may live in a digital age...

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..but a surprising amount of British trade is still done

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the old-fashioned way...

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AUCTIONEER CHANTS

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..at traditional auctions.

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Now's your time to get a bargain.

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These sales may feel like throwbacks to a bygone age,

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but for the buyers and sellers who flock to them,

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they're still the best way to conduct business.

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At 1,600. Blow your nose and bid again.

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We'll be visiting the UK's most dynamic traditional markets...

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..selling everything from pigs to cattle,

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-sheep dogs to ponies...

-580.

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..fish to veg,

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and discovering how they are the heartbeat of rural life.

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There'll be bargains to be had today.

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-450.

-That's part of being at an auction.

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Today, we're in the county of Lincolnshire at the UK's largest veg

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and plant auction.

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Agriculture and farming is the lifeblood of this area.

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We'll be meeting the auctioneers in the hot seat...

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Saving a penny. Sometimes it's nicer to spend a penny than save it.

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..and following the fortunes of three buyers and sellers...

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-At 44.

-Sometimes it works like that.

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-This is the auction.

-..as they experience all the excitement...

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If I really want it, I just keep my hand up.

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That's a brilliant price.

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..and tension...

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No!

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..as the hammer falls.

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Sold.

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We're in Spalding in South Lincolnshire,

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an ancient market town known as the heart of the Fens.

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Famous for its flat landscape and big skies,

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this huge area of eastern England

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has some of the best soil in Britain.

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Around 25% of all the UK's plant and veg growing happens here.

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No surprise, then,

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that Spalding is home to Britain's oldest and largest horticultural

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market, Spalding Auction house.

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Sounds like a bargain. 150.

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Do the best you can and don't mess about today.

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Bid at £4.

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I think they'll make a lot of money.

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Spalding market happens three times a week and it's actually two sales

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-rolled into one...

-Sold. Two.

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..a veg auction, today selling over 1,000 bags, boxes and nets...

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I usually buy these most weeks - if they're the right price.

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..of everything from potatoes to cauliflowers,

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carrots to sprouts,

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and a horticultural auction...

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They were just over £1 and I'll probably sell them for about 5.

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..with an amazing 16,000 shrubs, trees and plants for sale today,

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all grouped into lots.

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Spalding Auction is the biggest of its type in the country.

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It takes two auctioneers to keep the whole operation moving.

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On veg, it's new girl on the lot Claire Pearson.

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I've been auctioneering for nearly a year.

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I've come into this rather late in life but, er,

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I seem to be going quite well at the moment.

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And on plants, it's ten-year auction veteran Ady Williams.

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We always try our best to sell as much product as we can for the best

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price possible. If you sell something cheap

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and they're not happy, they're not going to come back.

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50p bid. Bidding at the back, sir.

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50p. He's looking at me.

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It's a big market for such a small place,

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but it's the sheer scale of growing round here that drives it.

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Agriculture and farming is the lifeblood of this area.

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Everything revolves around it.

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It's 10am, and before the auctions kick off

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there's a flurry of deliveries and signing in the hundreds of lots that

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will be sold today.

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-Have you brought a few bits for us?

-Oh, yeah, yeah.

-OK.

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Still glistening with the morning dew on.

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Cut this morning.

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Can't get a lot fresher than that.

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Freshness is critical at Spalding,

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but it puts the auctioneers under pressure.

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Pretty much everything here ought to be sold in the next four hours

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because by tomorrow it won't be fresh any more.

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We have to go pretty quickly.

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It's a Wednesday, the busiest sale day of the week.

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Time for the auctions to get under way.

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Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

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Welcome back to Spalding Auction.

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-Morning, everybody.

-These are Peperomia.

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3 by 105. Bid.

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I'm bid 35. Bid. At 40.

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At 40 bid.

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An unusual feature of Spalding Auction are the raised decks

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on wheels.

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They allow the auctioneers to get a good view of the bidders and to move

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around the lots at high speed.

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We're going around the corner into the next row, ladies and gentlemen.

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If you'll follow our man with the fluorescent jacket...

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It is a bit unique cos other places will bring the goods in front of a

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fixed station, but we're not, we're portable.

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150, 160, 170, at 180, 190.

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£2 bid. 2.10.

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2.20. A local buyer. At 2.20...

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Mr Halo.

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There are 30 or so buyers at the plant sale today,

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mostly auction regulars who run garden centres,

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flower shops or market stalls.

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And Ady has a hunch what they might be drawn to.

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Certain times of the year, and now is one of them, November,

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when the days are a bit dull sometimes,

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it gets dark early and they want a bit of colour.

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Something nice to look at and it's not all drab and dull and dingy.

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Sometimes they might pay a little bit more than they want,

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but if they know they've got a quality product,

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then they go away happy.

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Could be an advantage for local seller Carl Inkley, who's offering

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several hundred brightly coloured pansies for sale today.

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I'm expecting the pansies today could make good money.

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We could see 30p today, hopefully.

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30p a plant may not sound much,

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but when you're selling over 400,

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small differences mount up.

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And price is vital for Carl because what he makes here at the auction

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pays the wages of his staff.

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Carl's business is just five miles from the auction

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and it's on a big scale.

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He grows and sells well over one million plants year.

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I run Greenacre Nurseries.

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We produce pot bedding plants.

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Anything from a nine-centimetre pot to a three-litre pot.

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The nursery has been running for just over 20 years and is very much

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a family affair, with daughter Skye managing the office.

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Good afternoon, Greenacre.

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Carl imports potted seedlings called plugs,

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grows them here and sells them on at the auction.

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These are the plugs that we bring in from Holland.

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When we're really busy in the spring, we can have...

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-HE SIGHS

-..ten times this delivering

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every week. Anywhere up to 60-70,000 a week of different varieties.

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We grow about a quarter of a million fuchsias every year,

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round about a quarter of a million pansies,

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bedding plants and basket plants, about a quarter of a million,

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and about 500,000 perennials a year.

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His top-end potting machine cost him over £20,000 some years ago

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and it's hard at work from dawn till dusk.

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This is what we use to pot the fuchsias on from the plugs.

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We tend to pot on average between 2,000, 2,500 an hour.

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It cost me more than my house did when I bought it and...

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But I think it's saved me twice that.

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Really, all it does is distributes the pots onto a belt,

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fills them with compost and drills a small hole in them,

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so when they come around to Edita,

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she just puts the plant into a hole

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and puts it down for Sharon to put

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on the tray. It's basic, but it all works and it works well.

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Carl's life used to be very different from the gentle world

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of horticulture. He was once a long-distance lorry driver.

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Been doing this now nearly 25 years.

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I was a farmer's son that went on to lorry driving and had an accident

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and broke me back and I just started growing a few plants at home in me

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back garden and it started from there, where there was

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me and the wife

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just potting a few plants up, to where we've got now.

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The transition from lorries into plants was a major transition.

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The fact that

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I was nearly 18 months not walking

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and knowing I couldn't drive a lorry,

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er, you've got to earn a living and keep me family

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and the only thing I knew anything about was growing plants.

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We're never going to be rich in this job,

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as anybody that gets their hands dirty, but there's a living.

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It's a seasonal business and profit margins are modest,

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so prices at market are of paramount importance to Carl and family.

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The auction is very important to the business and the money from

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the auction covers the wages each week.

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So with six staff to pay,

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there's a lot riding on today's line-up of pansies and cyclamen.

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This is a trolley we've got up ready for the auction.

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Erm, pansies, nice, good-quality pansies.

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We've got a trailing pansy.

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That, again, looks very nice.

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And then we've just got a few cyclamen from the

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end of the batch of cyclamen.

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I hope for these two trolleys, if it's a good day tomorrow,

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to get between 200 and £220.

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We're back onto the orchid selection.

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These probably mixed orchids now.

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We're going to kick off at 150 for the orchids.

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Bid. I am bid 150, bid.

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160 bid. At 160...

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On auction day, sellers like Carl tend to deliver their lots early

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and get straight back to their farms or nurseries.

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I don't stop at the sales no more.

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I would like to, but I just don't get the time no more.

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It's come up here in the morning, get unloaded,

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get back and start growing again.

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Most of the sellers probably turn up 7:30 to about 9 in the morning

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with all their goods on trolleys,

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bringing them in, and then they just leave it to us.

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They're usually too busy to spend the time here,

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to watch their goods sold.

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Carl's two racks make a colourful splash on this overcast autumn day.

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This is all he's brought in today, just two racks of plants,

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because it's a reasonably quiet time for Carl.

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-I've known him for about...

-HE SIGHS

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Well, as long as I've worked here, so about 30-odd years.

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He's a big bike enthusiast, as you can see when you see him.

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Obviously, he has his leather jacket and...

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But he's a great guy. Yeah, he...

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If you don't know him,

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you could be a bit intimidated by his look and appearance,

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but when you get to know him, he's a really nice guy.

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Really nice. I hope he said the same about me.

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140. Four lots now.

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The auction has been there right from day one,

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right from the first batch of pansies that I grew.

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Ady has been there as long as I can remember

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and he's grown in with the job and he is very good at his job.

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He's very good for the grower and for the buyer, but

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he gets the best price he can at the time.

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There's a range of buyers at today's plant sale,

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mainly purchasing for their own garden centres, shops

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or market stalls.

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First up, Carl's cyclamen.

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We're moving along to a good selection now.

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It's lot number 85, this, 60 of the mini cyclamen.

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They're being sold per plant in batches of 60.

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English-grown. Let's put these in at 50.

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They're English. 40?

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Bid 30p with a low bid. Five.

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At 40 bid. 45 bid.

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At 50 bid to the mobile bidder. At...

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You're out from Norfolk, sir, at 50?

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-Sawmill.

-That's 50p each for the cyclamen.

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Better than Carl expected.

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Now the trailing pansies.

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Carl hopes for 30p a plant.

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The trailing pansies.

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These are going by the pot. 20p for a trailer.

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Bidding starts low, at 20p...

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26, 28.

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-..but it's building quickly.

-34.

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Bid 36. 38. 40.

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It's your turn now, sir. Are you out, sir?

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42, a fresh buyer.

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44. At 44.

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The bid's looking at me here, ladies and gentlemen.

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Mr Lionel. Two lots, sir?

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Takes them both.

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44p each is a great price.

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Nearly 50% more than Carl hoped for.

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Four more lots of pansies.

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Let's put these in at 20, individually potted.

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Now it's the regular pansies.

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18 bid. At 18. Are you bidding, Miss?

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At 20. 20. 22.

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The cap's in now at 24.

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26 bid.

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They're proving popular.

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Mr Bowman? Four lots, sir?

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Four lots clears.

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All four lots, 288 plants in all, sell for 26p each.

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Not a bad price, especially this late in the season.

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We're moving along to the bellis. There's two lots of 72.

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And now Carl's last two lots.

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Two. 24. At 24.

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144 bellis, or red daisy.

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Two lots of tete-a-tete.

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And 120 tete-a-tete, miniature relatives of the daffodil.

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60 on a pot. 30p.

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I'm bid 30, bid 35.

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-At 35 bid.

-All sell well, wrapping up a good auction for Carl.

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He'll get the total figure later.

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More importantly, he'll be able to pay the wages.

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For today, at least.

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Produce and plants are worth an impressive £2 billion a year

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to this region.

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Farming is the third biggest industry here

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and employs as many as one in four people.

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Lincolnshire is a big agricultural area and horticulture,

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and most people who work in this area work in horticulture

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or agriculture.

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It is a major thing for this area.

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A big employer.

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Flower growing on a huge scale is key to Lincolnshire's agribusiness

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and it always has been.

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In the '20s and '30s, thousands of acres of tulips were grown here,

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rivalling the famous Dutch tulip industry.

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The link was so strong,

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the area around Spalding is still called South Holland.

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That's when a lot of the Dutch came over to Lincolnshire,

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it's why a lot of the architecture is quite Dutch

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and a lot of the old houses that are here almost look a little bit Dutch.

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In 1948, local growers launched tulip week,

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when buses took visitors on tours of the vast tulip fields.

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Spalding plant and veg auction began in the very same year,

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right in the centre of town.

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And soon after, the annual Spalding tulip parade began.

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With its flowers and floats, it grew quickly,

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attracting 100,000 visitors in its heyday,

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and ran for over 50 years.

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It ended in 2013.

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But the auction is still going strong.

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The auction house was formed in 1948,

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so it's been in this area for a long time and it was originally

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in the town centre, but in 1995

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we moved to where we are here and it just seems to have gone from

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strength to strength now.

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It's built up some unique traditions over time.

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Mr Galore. Any further bids?

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One is that every buyer has their own codename.

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One. Mr Magnolia.

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-One.

-Mr Corgi.

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-One.

-Mr Mash.

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Two to Mr Mash.

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You're out with a local bid, sir. Monster.

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One to Mr Slipper?

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The codename avoids the market ever mixing up clients

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with similar surnames.

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But in the poker game of auction,

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it's also a way for buyers to keep their cards close to their chest.

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All of our bidders have a name that isn't necessarily their own name.

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How many, Mr July? Two to July.

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They have bidding names.

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So that has been a challenge, learning all of those.

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Back at the auction, sales are moving at a pace.

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310. 320. 320. 330.

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Cactis are next, Nick,

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just be careful with these.

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We don't want any accidents.

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Scoping out what's on offer in the plant sale are buyers

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Hugh Faulds and John Cullen, codename Halo,

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and in decisive mood.

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No. No. No, no, no.

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No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

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No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, nope.

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Oh, that one's nice, actually.

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The couple run a garden design business and nursery

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and also sell plants online.

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Today's auction is a crucial opportunity for them

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to buy for next season's flower shows

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and also for their online business.

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There's more trolleys arriving down there.

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-As we speak.

-As we speak,

0:18:260:18:28

so there's still, you know, it's early days,

0:18:280:18:29

-that's why we get here so early.

-The early bird catches the worm.

0:18:290:18:32

Not necessarily. You've still got to bid on it.

0:18:320:18:34

THEY CHUCKLE

0:18:340:18:37

John and Hugh run the business from their home in Algarkirk,

0:18:420:18:46

a tiny village less than ten miles from the auction.

0:18:460:18:49

The couple moved here from London two years ago,

0:18:510:18:53

seeking more space

0:18:530:18:55

and the best growing land in Britain.

0:18:550:18:57

Come on, Bailey. Come on.

0:18:580:19:00

Are you coming up with us? Come on, then.

0:19:000:19:02

-Oh, you sounded like your mother there.

-Eh?

0:19:020:19:04

You sounded like your mother!

0:19:040:19:06

It is very agriculture here,

0:19:060:19:09

so it is good soil.

0:19:090:19:11

There's still a lot of nutrients in the soil here,

0:19:110:19:14

so things grow really well.

0:19:140:19:15

You battle with the winds,

0:19:150:19:17

but the plus side is that your soil is very rich.

0:19:170:19:19

John went into garden design after being made redundant in 2008

0:19:200:19:25

and Hugh joined him later, also after losing his job.

0:19:250:19:28

I worked for a council, doing environmental management systems

0:19:290:19:32

and they just came to me one day and said,

0:19:320:19:34

"We don't need you any more,"

0:19:340:19:35

and I just thought my world was falling apart,

0:19:350:19:37

and I really didn't know what was going to happen.

0:19:370:19:40

I then decided to join the business.

0:19:400:19:42

As well as the garden design, nursery and online businesses,

0:19:420:19:46

the couple have started taking part in some of the UK's

0:19:460:19:49

-major flower shows.

-Three years ago,

0:19:490:19:52

we decided to take the plunge

0:19:520:19:54

and enter into the floral marquees within

0:19:540:19:56

the RHS shows,

0:19:560:19:58

where you are judged by a panel of judges

0:19:580:20:00

and they will decide what your

0:20:000:20:02

medal is at the end of that.

0:20:020:20:04

It's a bit of a nerve-racking experience.

0:20:040:20:08

To top it all, they entered the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show

0:20:080:20:12

in 2017, after a last-minute cancellation by another competitor.

0:20:120:20:17

And we were absolutely delighted cos we got a silver medal.

0:20:190:20:21

Most people have about eight to ten months to get their gardens together,

0:20:230:20:27

we had five weeks,

0:20:270:20:29

so I think that's pretty damn good.

0:20:290:20:31

Look at this, a bit sloppy, isn't it?

0:20:310:20:34

John and Hugh's double mission at the auction will be to buy plants

0:20:340:20:37

for their online business,

0:20:370:20:39

as well as next year's all-important competitions.

0:20:390:20:42

At the moment, it's not so much our downtime, this is our prep time.

0:20:430:20:47

So what we're doing now is for shows that we're maybe going to be

0:20:470:20:51

attending in seven or eight months' time, erm,

0:20:510:20:55

so it's actually quite important for us to get as much stock as we

0:20:550:20:59

possibly can at the moment,

0:20:590:21:00

to do all the bits and pieces that we need to do,

0:21:000:21:02

cos it's a great time to do it.

0:21:020:21:04

But the newcomers are also still adding to their own garden,

0:21:040:21:08

so there's a third priority for them at auction, too.

0:21:080:21:13

We've planted probably, oh, round about 800 plants out here.

0:21:130:21:18

Lots and lots of lavender,

0:21:180:21:19

a lot of lavender actually came from the auction house,

0:21:190:21:22

as did the rosemary.

0:21:220:21:23

The conifers and most of the shrubs that are all out here, all came from

0:21:230:21:27

auction house.

0:21:270:21:29

With businesses to run,

0:21:310:21:33

flower shows to win and their own garden to expand,

0:21:330:21:36

having the auction on their doorstep is a dream for the couple.

0:21:360:21:40

But when it comes to bidding, John does have his worries about Hugh.

0:21:410:21:45

I suppose, yeah, the difference between Hugh and I is Hugh

0:21:460:21:50

never looks at a figure, so he very rarely would be able to tell you

0:21:500:21:53

what something is actually worth or how much the end price is

0:21:530:21:57

that we're going to sell it for - all he sees is something that's

0:21:570:22:00

a little bit pretty and he thinks it'll look really good. So, yeah,

0:22:000:22:03

we do have a clash of personalities on that one, shall we say.

0:22:030:22:08

I am not really allowed to do the bidding that much because

0:22:080:22:12

I tend to go, if I really want it, I go, I just keep my hand up.

0:22:120:22:16

And that's really bad.

0:22:170:22:19

I think it's really good, but John thinks it's really bad.

0:22:190:22:21

So I will just stand there till I get it

0:22:210:22:23

and I don't care how much I'm going to pay for it.

0:22:230:22:25

There was a funny situation when we first started the auction,

0:22:250:22:28

where we were actually bidding against each other.

0:22:280:22:30

And bless him, Ady said, "I've got you, I've got you,"

0:22:320:22:35

and I still had my hand up and I still thought I was bidding against

0:22:350:22:38

someone else and I was actually bidding against John.

0:22:380:22:40

2.50, 2.60, 2.70, 2.80...

0:22:430:22:46

2.80. I'm with you at 2.80.

0:22:460:22:48

Put them in at 1.50 bid, at 1.60. 1.60...

0:22:480:22:52

Porter. Ooh, late bid there, Nicholas!

0:22:520:22:54

But when they get into the auction,

0:22:560:22:57

it looks like it might be John who's in profligate mood today.

0:22:570:23:01

INDISTINCT

0:23:010:23:03

-£22.

-My bid.

0:23:030:23:05

Bid, Mr Halo.

0:23:050:23:07

Sold to Halo, and these two garden pots as well.

0:23:070:23:11

Of course, as usual, John's wanted another bird bath, haven't you?

0:23:120:23:14

How many have you got already?

0:23:140:23:16

-Three.

-Now we've got four.

0:23:160:23:18

-Four.

-However, I did like the pots and we've got the pots as well.

0:23:180:23:21

We got them for six quid apiece,

0:23:210:23:23

-which I think...

-Yeah.

-..is really, really good, so I'm chuffed.

0:23:230:23:25

15 Pieris lot, four years and under...

0:23:250:23:27

Two minutes in and they've already spent over 10% of their budget.

0:23:270:23:32

Focus, Halo, focus!

0:23:320:23:34

On to the plant sale, come on!

0:23:340:23:36

Next is the trailing ivy

0:23:400:23:42

that John thinks would be a good purchase for flower-show season.

0:23:420:23:45

We have a run of ivy now, there's eight lots of nine

0:23:460:23:48

and we're going to start the bidding at 35p. Bid at 35p.

0:23:480:23:52

35p... Halo...?

0:23:520:23:55

But with more than 70 plants,

0:23:550:23:57

35p each is more than John's willing to pay

0:23:570:24:00

and he drops out.

0:24:000:24:01

I did have a little go at some ivy but it was going too high a price,

0:24:020:24:06

so I left that.

0:24:060:24:07

Lot 52.

0:24:100:24:11

Now, here's another selection skimmias, there's various counts

0:24:150:24:18

on these, we've got one 8, a 16 and a 24.

0:24:180:24:21

Those are nice.

0:24:210:24:23

Those are really nice.

0:24:230:24:25

To make up for the disappointment,

0:24:250:24:27

John jumps in for some white skimmia,

0:24:270:24:30

a pretty flowering shrub from Asia that'll sell well online.

0:24:300:24:33

At 1.40. 1.50 is the magic one, Legend.

0:24:330:24:36

1.60, at 1.60.

0:24:360:24:39

5, at 1.65 bid.

0:24:390:24:41

We're still going up here, at 1.65.

0:24:410:24:43

Mr Halo?

0:24:430:24:45

-Small, though.

-A lot of eight, sir? A lot of eight to Halo.

0:24:450:24:49

A success for Halo.

0:24:490:24:51

Mr Porter.

0:24:510:24:52

And while Hugh heads off to get a trolley...

0:24:520:24:55

We have 20 of the Gaultheria. 50. Bid

0:24:550:24:58

..the normally parsimonious John, left alone,

0:24:580:25:01

goes on a bit of a spending spree.

0:25:010:25:03

£1... £1.10.

0:25:030:25:05

1.20, 1.30, 1.40

0:25:050:25:07

is the Algarkirk bidder, ladies and gentlemen.

0:25:070:25:10

-Halo.

-And Halo buys again.

0:25:100:25:13

So that was a shelf of Gaultheria, which has nice red berries on it.

0:25:130:25:17

Not quite sure what I'm going to do with it yet, but...

0:25:170:25:20

..it looks good.

0:25:200:25:21

John's profligacy has not gone unnoticed.

0:25:230:25:26

12.

0:25:290:25:30

So you went more than we agreed?

0:25:310:25:33

You weren't here.

0:25:330:25:35

That's cos I was doing a trolley.

0:25:360:25:37

That's why you sent me to do the trolley, wasn't it,

0:25:380:25:40

so that you could buy what you wanted?

0:25:400:25:43

Next up, some cherry trees, or Prunus.

0:25:430:25:47

We have three lots of three Prunus, they're in the pots at 7.50.

0:25:470:25:51

7.50 bid, at 7.50 is Mr Halo.

0:25:510:25:54

Three lots of three there, sir?

0:25:540:25:56

The Amagawa. Amanogawa.

0:25:560:25:57

-Is that the first one?

-It's the middle lot.

0:25:570:25:59

-Middle lot.

-That's a brilliant price.

0:25:590:26:01

The first three and the last three left, that's all.

0:26:010:26:03

A real bargain at £7.50 for each tree.

0:26:030:26:06

I'm really, really pleased because it's a good price.

0:26:060:26:09

I mean, literally, if you go to the retailers,

0:26:090:26:11

you're maybe paying 40 quid for them. It's gone for £7.50.

0:26:110:26:14

Hello!

0:26:140:26:15

It's one of the big pluses of the auction -

0:26:150:26:19

trees that would have cost £40 at a garden centre, for just £7.50,

0:26:190:26:24

and there's still plenty of lots left to sell.

0:26:240:26:28

Other bargains surely await.

0:26:280:26:30

Back at Carl Inkley's nursery,

0:26:370:26:39

the auction has already sent through the results of his sale

0:26:390:26:42

and the former truck driver is rather pleased.

0:26:420:26:45

Ooh! Very good.

0:26:450:26:47

Very good.

0:26:490:26:50

The mini cyclamen, we expected 50p and they've made 50p.

0:26:510:26:55

The trailing pansy, I thought we'd be on a bonus if we got 30p,

0:26:560:27:00

but, oh, they've made 44, so a good day.

0:27:000:27:04

I thought it was going to be when I had a look round,

0:27:040:27:06

but, yeah, perhaps the top price we've ever made on those pansies.

0:27:060:27:10

I'd anticipated today to be around £200.

0:27:100:27:15

We're coming out with £244 on the two trolleys,

0:27:150:27:19

which is, yeah, very good for this time of year, yeah.

0:27:190:27:22

It was a very good day, yeah, very good day.

0:27:220:27:24

The money will just go into the pot to pay the wages

0:27:240:27:27

and everything else.

0:27:270:27:30

It's been a great auction for Carl.

0:27:300:27:33

When margins are so tight, an extra £40 makes a big difference,

0:27:330:27:37

especially at a lean time of year.

0:27:370:27:39

Flowers are vital to Lincolnshire,

0:27:460:27:48

but at the heart of the region's agribusiness is veg.

0:27:480:27:52

50% of all the veg we Brits eat is UK-grown.

0:27:520:27:56

Much of it is produced right here,

0:27:570:28:00

where much of the soil is grade one - the very best for growing.

0:28:000:28:05

Rich and silty because the whole region was formally marshland that

0:28:050:28:08

flooded frequently.

0:28:080:28:10

Everywhere you go around here,

0:28:140:28:15

it's... Every field you look at has got cauliflowers in it, potatoes,

0:28:150:28:20

cabbages, everything you could imagine, really.

0:28:200:28:23

It's excellent growing soil and that's why we're so famous, I think,

0:28:240:28:30

now, for good growing.

0:28:300:28:33

Eastern England has been the national veg patch

0:28:340:28:36

for hundreds of years.

0:28:360:28:38

And when mechanisation came to British farming,

0:28:400:28:43

it happened here first

0:28:430:28:45

because the big, flat, open fields

0:28:450:28:47

suited the cumbersome early machinery.

0:28:470:28:50

These days, Lincolnshire still has a lot of small and medium growers,

0:28:530:28:58

too small to deal with supermarkets

0:28:580:29:00

or big wholesalers.

0:29:000:29:01

And it's those smaller operators who rely on the auction.

0:29:030:29:06

Lots of the local farmers are quite small.

0:29:080:29:13

They only have a few acres,

0:29:130:29:15

so they're not big enough to sell to multiples.

0:29:150:29:19

When they're only growing

0:29:190:29:21

five or ten boxes of cauliflowers every week,

0:29:210:29:24

this is the perfect outlet for them,

0:29:240:29:26

and that's the attraction for them to come here.

0:29:260:29:29

Saving a penny, sometimes it's nicer to spend a penny than save it,

0:29:330:29:36

but she's saving a penny today.

0:29:360:29:39

-AGC.

-£2 a box, £2, thank you.

0:29:390:29:42

£2, 2.10, 2.10 nearer the rostrum...

0:29:420:29:45

Seller David Dickinson is a good example of a smaller grower who's

0:29:470:29:51

an auction regular.

0:29:510:29:52

The stakes are high for David

0:29:540:29:56

because what he gets here for his produce is

0:29:560:29:58

the bulk of his income.

0:29:580:30:00

In the auction, things just vary from one week to another, really.

0:30:010:30:07

All we can do is sort of, like, bring in the best quality we can.

0:30:070:30:11

He's selling everything today, from cabbages to kale,

0:30:110:30:15

sprouts to cauliflowers.

0:30:150:30:17

And that is it, the van is empty.

0:30:170:30:19

Altogether, 52 boxes, nets or bundles of his finest veg.

0:30:190:30:24

Living just six miles from Spalding,

0:30:340:30:36

David was born and bred here in the Fens.

0:30:360:30:40

The family farm is small, but his passion for veg-growing is palpable.

0:30:400:30:45

I love sprouts

0:30:470:30:48

and I think now the new varieties we've got are lovely.

0:30:480:30:51

They've got a reputation and people won't have them

0:30:520:30:55

and they won't change their mind now.

0:30:550:30:57

They were done to high heaven, weren't they?

0:30:570:30:58

They were done till mushy. I mean, my mam used to do them and that...

0:30:580:31:01

Oh, dear, they were horrible.

0:31:010:31:03

We came here 62 years ago and that was my father's first-ever farm.

0:31:080:31:15

It is grade one soil, absolutely perfect for growing vegetables.

0:31:150:31:20

Like so many of these small but intensely productive Fenland farms,

0:31:210:31:26

David's enterprise is very much a family affair.

0:31:260:31:29

Right.

0:31:290:31:30

Winter Savoy cabbage, the standard cabbage.

0:31:300:31:33

They're ideal for this time of year, with cold weather.

0:31:330:31:36

In this stunningly good soil,

0:31:370:31:39

the range of what David grows is remarkable.

0:31:390:31:42

We're just like a big market garden.

0:31:430:31:45

I only have 25 acres that I'm cropping

0:31:450:31:48

and on that at the moment we're selling cauliflowers, cabbages,

0:31:480:31:51

Dutch cabbage, red cabbage, Brussels, Brussels stalks,

0:31:510:31:55

Brussels tops.

0:31:550:31:56

We've still got carrots, beetroot, leeks and green kale and black kale.

0:31:560:32:01

Curly kale is very, very fashionable now.

0:32:020:32:04

It's the new thing that's come in.

0:32:040:32:06

If you'd said it to my dad 60 years ago,

0:32:060:32:08

he'd say kale was for cows and not for humans to eat.

0:32:080:32:12

It's not easy earning a living from veg-growing

0:32:150:32:17

and David faces multiple pressures.

0:32:170:32:20

Margins are very tight because seed costs have gone up,

0:32:210:32:25

spray costs are going up,

0:32:250:32:27

fertiliser costs are going up,

0:32:270:32:29

but the price of the end product has not gone up in relation to it

0:32:290:32:34

and whoever we sell through takes their cut

0:32:340:32:38

and we're left at the bottom and these margins are getting smaller.

0:32:380:32:41

So we are in a state of flux, to be honest.

0:32:410:32:44

-Carrots in both?

-Yeah, you want a cauliflower.

0:32:480:32:51

Their new veg-box business is an attempt to diversify and widen their

0:32:530:32:57

-market.

-Dirty parsnips.

0:32:570:33:00

I think we've got probably about 20, 25 customers.

0:33:020:33:05

It's just beginning to grow a little bit, isn't it?

0:33:050:33:08

Yeah. It was Marion's idea about five years ago

0:33:080:33:10

and I've just got round to it.

0:33:100:33:12

So we'll put parsnips, kale, cauliflower and carrots.

0:33:120:33:16

I mean, look how she's done it.

0:33:160:33:18

I could've tried all my life

0:33:180:33:19

and still don't get them as nice as that, and they look lovely.

0:33:190:33:23

But the main source of income remains the auction.

0:33:230:33:26

A lot more goes off to the auction than what goes to the veg boxes.

0:33:260:33:30

It's only a small amount that goes to the veg boxes, really.

0:33:300:33:32

David's ties with Spalding market go back almost to its beginnings.

0:33:330:33:38

We are very fortunate to have Spalding Auction so close,

0:33:380:33:42

so I can take a load in every day.

0:33:420:33:44

We've been doing this probably for 50-odd years.

0:33:440:33:48

Selling to the auction, it is always a gamble.

0:33:490:33:51

Supply and demand will affect the price,

0:33:510:33:53

and if there's no supply going into the auction,

0:33:530:33:56

then the price will go up high.

0:33:560:33:58

But that is the risk you take when you take your produce on a day.

0:33:580:34:02

We don't quite know what everybody else is bringing in.

0:34:020:34:05

In the auction today, I've got two lots of 15 boxes of two different

0:34:070:34:11

types of cabbage, I've got some Brussels sprouts.

0:34:110:34:14

Brussels, you would want to be making over £5 a net.

0:34:140:34:18

I've got some Brussels sprout stalks.

0:34:180:34:20

Stalks you want to be 50-60p for a Brussels stalk.

0:34:200:34:25

And I've got some cauliflowers.

0:34:250:34:27

Cauliflowers really want to be £3 for six.

0:34:270:34:31

I brought a load in last Wednesday of very nearly the same products

0:34:310:34:38

and I made about £115.

0:34:380:34:40

If I get anywhere above that, I'll be well happy.

0:34:400:34:44

£3 bid, 3.20. 3.20 in front of me.

0:34:470:34:50

3.40 on the back, 3.40, 3.60...

0:34:500:34:52

3.80. Everywhere, 3.80.

0:34:520:34:56

Back at the market, David's hopeful for a good auction.

0:34:560:34:59

HORN TOOTS

0:35:000:35:01

I'm happy with what I've brought in today.

0:35:010:35:04

Hopefully it'll sell well.

0:35:040:35:05

With his 50 years' experience,

0:35:060:35:09

the seasoned seller knows that appearance is everything.

0:35:090:35:12

A crop is sold on eyesight

0:35:150:35:18

and people will look at it, and if it doesn't look right,

0:35:180:35:20

then they'll walk past because there'll be somebody else's to buy.

0:35:200:35:23

So it has to look grade one, look nice.

0:35:230:35:27

For Brussels, say, we could buy a light green net or a dark green net.

0:35:270:35:31

You put it in and you look and you will see a big difference,

0:35:310:35:34

so you look at what looks the best,

0:35:340:35:37

what catch people's eye.

0:35:370:35:38

Like many sellers, David doesn't stay for the auction.

0:35:410:35:44

I come straight home, I never stay for the sale,

0:35:480:35:51

because I have another order coming in at half past eight,

0:35:510:35:54

so I never get time, so I've never seen my produce sold, to be honest.

0:35:540:35:58

We have to put all our faith in the auctioneer to sell it.

0:35:580:36:01

4.60, thank you.

0:36:010:36:02

4.60, 4.70.

0:36:020:36:03

Time for that faith to be put to the test

0:36:030:36:06

because David's produce is up next.

0:36:060:36:09

On to the caulis in sixes, four lots here.

0:36:110:36:13

Start me at £2. £2 anywhere?

0:36:130:36:16

Anybody bidding? £2?

0:36:160:36:17

Let's go 1.80. 1.50? 1.50, he bids me, 1.50, 1.60, 1.70...

0:36:170:36:22

1.70, any further bids?

0:36:220:36:24

We're at 1.70.

0:36:240:36:26

AGC.

0:36:260:36:28

Two to Mr AGC. Mr July, you were the underbidder.

0:36:280:36:31

Clears.

0:36:310:36:33

Someone's got a bargain, but not David.

0:36:330:36:36

He wanted £3 per box of six for his cauliflowers

0:36:360:36:40

and got £1.70 instead.

0:36:400:36:42

On to the January King, these are in sixes, 1.50.

0:36:430:36:46

Anybody starting it? Thank you - 1.50, I'm bid.

0:36:460:36:48

-1.50.

-Now it's David's January King cabbages, 15 boxes.

0:36:480:36:54

Any more bidders? 1.50.

0:36:540:36:56

Can't see any more hands.

0:36:560:36:57

1.50.

0:36:570:36:59

-Porter?

-Three, please.

0:36:590:37:00

Three to Mr Porter.

0:37:000:37:02

One to Reality.

0:37:020:37:04

Everybody's hands go up now.

0:37:040:37:06

-SHE CHUCKLES

-We've got quite a few, haven't we?

0:37:060:37:08

We've got one to Galore, one to CPL,

0:37:080:37:11

one to Canoe, two to Mark.

0:37:110:37:13

Nine sold, six left.

0:37:130:37:15

The January Kings prove popular.

0:37:150:37:18

All 15 boxes sell at £1.50 a box, a good price.

0:37:180:37:23

Now we have the sprout stalks.

0:37:230:37:24

Start me at £1, £1 bid.

0:37:240:37:26

1.10, 1.20, 1.30, 1.40.

0:37:260:37:28

£2. £2, 2.10, 2.20.

0:37:280:37:30

2.20, 2.30.

0:37:300:37:32

2.40. 2.40, 2.50.

0:37:320:37:34

2.50 in front of me, 2.50.

0:37:340:37:36

David's sprout stalks are much in demand.

0:37:360:37:39

2.80, then. Right on the back row.

0:37:390:37:42

Council.

0:37:420:37:43

Clears.

0:37:430:37:44

£2.80 for each bundle is more than David was hoping for.

0:37:450:37:49

We have sprouts in nine-kilo bags, ten on offer.

0:37:500:37:54

David wants at least £5 a net for his sprouts.

0:37:540:37:58

£5 anywhere?

0:37:580:37:59

Anybody bidding, £5?

0:37:590:38:01

Let's go 4.50, then.

0:38:010:38:02

4.50 bid here.

0:38:020:38:03

4.50. 4.60, 4.70.

0:38:030:38:05

4.70, 4.80 at the back.

0:38:050:38:07

-4.80 and climbing.

-4.90.

0:38:070:38:09

£5. I've got £5.

0:38:090:38:12

5.20. 5.20 at the back now.

0:38:120:38:14

Any further bids? I'm at 5.20.

0:38:140:38:17

Fair buy. Clears.

0:38:170:38:19

A little above what David hoped to achieve.

0:38:200:38:23

And later on, he'll get his total figure for the sale.

0:38:260:38:29

32. 32. 35.

0:38:310:38:33

-35...

-The auction is beginning to wind down.

0:38:330:38:37

Any further bids at 35?

0:38:370:38:39

Time for buyers Hugh and John to collect their purchases.

0:38:400:38:44

We're going to have to borrow a trolley from them, I think, John.

0:38:440:38:47

Though there seems to be something of a dispute

0:38:470:38:49

about what they've spent.

0:38:490:38:50

We've spent 118 so far.

0:38:500:38:52

-We've got another 200 there.

-And that's about...

0:38:520:38:54

John, what've you bought?

0:38:540:38:55

About £300, I think.

0:38:550:38:57

I think.

0:38:570:38:59

-Roughly.

-Let's go and just see how much it comes to.

0:38:590:39:01

The auction office will reveal all.

0:39:030:39:06

£330-odd,

0:39:100:39:14

to be precise.

0:39:140:39:15

Erm...not bad for a very small shopping list.

0:39:150:39:19

Yeah.

0:39:190:39:20

-Thank you!

-They set themselves a budget of £300,

0:39:210:39:25

so spending £330 isn't too bad.

0:39:250:39:28

They wanted to buy for next year's competitions,

0:39:300:39:33

their online business, and themselves,

0:39:330:39:35

and they've succeeded.

0:39:350:39:37

Er, don't go forward! No, no... Let's get them...

0:39:370:39:39

The ilex - elegant, tall, silver holly plants,

0:39:390:39:43

will form part of a show next year.

0:39:430:39:44

The skimmia will be perfect to sell online.

0:39:460:39:49

-Whoa!

-THEY CHUCKLE

0:39:510:39:53

These are beautiful, aren't they?

0:39:530:39:54

These are really gorgeous.

0:39:540:39:56

And for their own garden, they're delighted with the cherry trees.

0:39:560:40:00

Do you think we'll get time to plant these as soon as we get back,

0:40:000:40:02

-it's getting dark, isn't it?

-Probably.

-I want to get these in.

0:40:020:40:05

They're so gorgeous.

0:40:050:40:06

There we go.

0:40:060:40:08

Yeah, back to the nursery now

0:40:100:40:11

and hopefully, we've got a couple of hours of light,

0:40:110:40:13

maybe an hour of light left,

0:40:130:40:14

so we might get a few things actually planted in this evening.

0:40:140:40:17

-Do you think?

-Well, we'll try.

0:40:170:40:19

Or we'll have a cup of tea, one of the two.

0:40:190:40:21

I think it's a cup of tea.

0:40:210:40:23

They are two buyers who are certainly leaving the auction happy.

0:40:240:40:28

Five miles away on David Dickinson's farm...

0:40:360:40:39

..it's time to make that call.

0:40:410:40:43

Hello, Michelle - David Dickinson speaking.

0:40:460:40:49

Yeah, I'm all right, duck.

0:40:500:40:51

Can you just look my prices up for me, please?

0:40:510:40:53

Right. 15 stonehead.

0:40:580:41:00

For 1.80, yeah.

0:41:010:41:03

15 January King...

0:41:040:41:06

..1.50. Four cauli...

0:41:070:41:09

1.70, is that all?

0:41:110:41:13

Yeah, 1.70.

0:41:130:41:15

25 stalks,

0:41:150:41:17

five bundles at 2.80.

0:41:170:41:19

Ten nets of sprouts...

0:41:210:41:23

..5.20.

0:41:240:41:25

Thanks very much, Michelle.

0:41:250:41:27

No, they've done all right, you've done all right, well done.

0:41:270:41:30

Take care, see you tomorrow, bye.

0:41:300:41:32

Cabbage have done us about as normal,

0:41:360:41:38

that's about a standard price for them.

0:41:380:41:40

Brussels have sold well, stalks have sold well.

0:41:400:41:44

Cauliflower...

0:41:440:41:45

..not so well, but there's been a glut of cauliflower.

0:41:450:41:48

I thought they'd make a bit more, but they've been poor,

0:41:490:41:52

but generally they've done all right.

0:41:520:41:54

Well, overall, we're going to bring home £130 from that load today

0:41:540:41:59

and that's all right, that's good.

0:41:590:42:01

I didn't quite make 120 last week,

0:42:010:42:03

so I've made about £15 more this week to what I did last week.

0:42:030:42:06

All up, a successful auction for David

0:42:070:42:10

and better income than last week.

0:42:100:42:12

In Spalding, the market will soon be empty after a hectic day of selling

0:42:140:42:19

over 1,000 boxes and bags of vegetables...

0:42:190:42:22

..and nearly 16,000 plants.

0:42:230:42:26

And tomorrow morning, they'll be back to do it all over again.

0:42:280:42:32

The thing I like about the auction is you never know what's going to

0:42:330:42:36

happen on that day,

0:42:360:42:37

no two days are the same, and that's what makes it so refreshing.

0:42:370:42:41

You're up on the rostrum,

0:42:410:42:42

the buyers are there to buy and before you know it,

0:42:420:42:45

it's time to go home again.

0:42:450:42:46

For sellers like Carl Inkley and David Dickinson,

0:42:530:42:57

the extra pounds they've earned at auction this week are enough to make

0:42:570:43:00

a real difference in an industry of increasingly tight margins.

0:43:000:43:04

And anyway, it isn't just about the money...

0:43:080:43:11

This is our bit of England and we love it and we're proud of it

0:43:130:43:17

and we get pride out of walking round and seeing our crops growing.

0:43:170:43:22

This is what we know, we love the countryside.

0:43:220:43:24

We care more for the countryside than

0:43:250:43:28

the profit we make out of it.

0:43:280:43:30

Spalding Plant and Vegetable Auction in Lincolnshire is the oldest market of its kind in the UK, having started in 1948. There are three sales a week, selling as many as 1,000 bags and boxes of veg and up to 16,000 plants, shrubs and trees in a day. It needs two auctioneers to do it. The auction is here for a reason - a quarter of all UK veg and plant production happens in the Lincolnshire region, and in some areas one in four people work in agriculture.

Local seller Carl Inkley grows over a million plants a year in his nursery, but there's lots at stake at the auction, as he needs good prices to pay the staff wages. Buyers John Cullen and Hugh Faulds recently moved to the area from London, seeking more space and the amazing rich soil for their new landscape gardening business. In contrast, veg seller David Dickinson has been coming to this auction for over four decades and relies on it for pretty much all his income.


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