Foxhollow Nurseries is a product of over 30 years of effort of the two founders David and Martina Slater. David and Martina have transformed ... Read our history here:
Having finished college in 1980 Martina training at Plymouth college of art and design as a Graphic Designer and David at Seale Hayne agricultural college as a Farm Manager we found ourselves at a time of high unemployment living in an area with few jobs so advertised in areas of intense farming activity for employment with accommodation in farming and found ourselves moving to West Sussex where David had found employment as a relief milker and general farm worker. Martina also found part-time work at Walberton Nursery where they grew herbs and alpines for the Farplants group.
Seeing an advert in Farmers Weekly for a smallholding to let in West Sussex we applied for it but unfortunately failed on that occasion to secure a tenancy. However we met the daughter and son in law of the outgoing tenant who gave us useful advice on applying for another tenancy.
When a 15 acre smallholding on the Little Woodcote estate, Carshalton became available through Surrey County Council we went to view it and applied for the tenancy, the interview was very intimidating and thorough. This time we were successful much to our delight. In August 1982 we arrived at the holding in our old green escort van loaded with young son, two Scottish deerhounds, cat and several white silky chickens. The horse arrived separately a couple of weeks later We had little in the way of finance although we had saved like somebody obsessed for the preceding year and managed two thousand pounds plus a loan of nine thousand pounds from David’s parents. A grand total of eleven thousand pounds. Our experience was also very limited but we had boundless energy and enthusiasm.
The holding bore no resemblance to the holding we had applied for as it was now head high in weeds. We were not impressed. When we found a local contractor to mow the weeds down he didn’t see one of the water standpipes near the road due to the weeds and that became an early casualty. David was so keen to start work on the land that unpacking from the move was not even finished before work began on clearing weeds from the small Christmas tree plantation we had had to purchase as part of the tenancy agreement. Money being tight we managed to sell half of the trees to a local farmer straight away which was useful.
There were just two smallish greenhouses, a couple of sheds, and a garage near the house and a longer breeze block building open at one end further away. The one hundred or so plants we brought with us occupied just a tiny corner of one greenhouse. After ploughing up the land nearest the house we began planting leeks our first customer was a passing gentleman who bought some leek plants to grow on.
We initially tried growing a number of crops including lettuce, leeks, sweetcorn, wallflowers and herb plants as well as continuing the selling and growing of Christmas trees which were already established on the site.
It soon became apparent that the herbs were a far more economical crop than any of the others and with Christmas trees running alongside the herbs, filling in income at an otherwise dismal selling period this has sustained us for the ensuing thirty plus years.
During that period the appearance of our holding has changed quite dramatically from bare unfenced land with no trees or hedges to green fields, numerous trees and hedges with a thriving nursery at its heart. There has been an expansion of the Christmas tree plantations too. We have always been passionate about wildlife and ecology so we have created a workplace where wildlife can thrive alongside our business.