BURY ST. EDMUNDS, England - Traveling into this Suffolk County town, two sites on either side of the road dominate the landscape.

On the one side sits the town's historic cathedral, a staple of many cities dotting the English countryside. One the other stands the billowing towers of the town's sugarbeet factory, where the produce is turned into 15,000 tons of granulated sugar each day.

Like much of the rest of the East Anglia region, agriculture represents the major industry of Bury St. Edmunds. In the region, 50,000 jobs are directly created by the industry, and 167,000 are indirectly affected.

Three-quarters of the land in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire counties are used for agriculture, accounting for one-third of England's wheat and potatoes, 2.2 million eggs per day and 1.1 million pigs.

Half of the nation's sugarbeet crop is grown on property belonging to the Stennett family, including the 2,000-acre Culford Lodge Farm outside Bury.

The farm has become a symbol of the region's agriculture scene. From its humble beginnings in the 1940s through today, the business has diversified from simple planting and harvesting to also include storage, grain trading and waste water divisions.

While the local sugarbeet factory represents a major client for the business, the farm's operators also sell their wares to a worldwide audience. Ed Walsh, one of the farm managers, said Decatur-based Archer Daniels Midland has become a major client.

Part of the farm's business model that has proved beneficial, both economically and environmentally, has been a commitment to leaving as little waste as possible at the end of the process.

Remains of harvested produce, including bean skins and sugarbeet leftovers, are converted for other uses, such as animal feed or energy production. One of the few items actually left as waste are pea pods, as a practical use hasn't yet been found.

"With everything we do, we try to get environmental benefit from it," Walsh said.

The waste water branch of the company also capitalizes on those recycling efforts, as the farm purchases more than 150,000 tons of waste water from other industries each year and uses that material in the fields as a form of fertilizer, both improving the organic conditions of the soil and lowering overhead expenses.

While Culford Lodge Farm is by no means a small venture, another East Anglian farming group has established itself as a contender on a much larger stage.

G's Global, near Chatteris in the area of England known as the Fens, also operates farms in the south of Spain and the Czech Republic. This diversity allows for crops to be harvested year-round in different locations.

The fertile peat soil of the Fens, creating through centuries of natural geologic change and manmade draining of the marshlands in the region, give the company a competitive edge over its competition. The land warms quicker, granting an early start to the planting season.

"It's given us a real competitive advantage," said Charlie Kisby of G's Marketing.

Revenue has increased exponentially since the company began its operations several years ago. As a small example, G's farms produce 2 million heads of iceberg lettuce and 2 million sticks of celery per week. It also grows 90 percent of the UK's radish crop.

Customers in many of Europe's leading grocery retailers, including Waitroses, Tesco and Wal-Mart affiliate Asda, will find G's produce on the shelves. The marketing arm of the company has also made inroads into several other European markets, though some like France have been harder to penetrate.

But with the different customers come different expectations, and Kisby said the people of England have become trained to expect nothing short of the best.

"People in the UK expect perfect produce all the time," he said. "They expect no blemishes."




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