Steve Hughes retires after 27 years
Having spent more than 27 years advising growers, Steve Hughes - our longstanding technical area sales manager for the West Midlands and Wales - is retiring from the role at the end of the year to devote more time to his foster children and horses.
Having studied at Brooksby College, he started his career in Wiltshire - managing arable and beef farms - before moving to Worcestershire to join Dalgety. Largely by chance, Steve then switched sectors joining Shamrock Horticulture – a division of Bord na Mona – where he began his career in growing media.
Within two years, Shamrock was taken over by Levington Horticulture and subsequently by Scotts Professional. Steve left in 2004 to work for Humax professional growing media, only for the company to be bought by Scotts Professional five years later! Back in the fold, the company was bought out becoming Everris and then changed its name to ICL.
“I’ve worked for seven companies, but only left once!” he jokes.
“Over the past 27 years I’ve witnessed many changes, with growing media moving from peat bales and self-mixing on nurseries, to bespoke ready-mixed formulations containing efficient controlled release fertilizers and specialist plant protection products.”
More recently Steve has been at the forefront of the transition away from peat to more sustainable peat-reduced and peat-free growing media.
“Initially I fought it,” he admits. “Peat is a great media to grow plants in. However, at the end of the day, legislation is coming banning its use – so you have to get on with it. Things are moving at a pace now and, with new quality peat alternatives and additive technologies, growers are getting great results.
“I’ve also witnessed tremendous progression with fertilizers. Moving from original grade Osmocote to fifth generation Osmocote 5 products with the latest coating technologies.”
Having embraced many technological advances over the years, Steve singles out AngelaWeb as one he particularly relished.
“Web-based, it works out the best possible nutrition packages for different crops,” he says. “Taking into account the crop, factors including potting dates, expected sales dates, together with water quality etc, it works out the best nutrition packages. It’s a really great tool.
“While looking forward to retirement, I’m going to miss my ICL and distributor colleagues as well as my customers,” he says. “Over the years I’ve forged some great business relationships and friendships - I’ll miss those.”
However, there is little chance Steve will be putting his feet up! Together with wife Liz, they have raised three children and, when the youngest headed off to university, the couple began fostering. Over 17 years the couple have fostered 15 children – mostly long-term placements - and currently have four foster children living with them.
Steve’s other passion is horse riding and he is looking forward to having more free time to devote to his foster children and eight horses!
In recent years Steve was diagnosed with bowel cancer, which caught early was successfully operated on. Not one to complain, he believes he was fortunate and dealt with this challenging episode with his usual fortitude, positivity and good humour.
“I’m so grateful for all the fantastic support I received from customers, distributors, colleagues and the company,” he says. “It meant a lot to me. My cancer was symptomless and was picked up through a routine screening programme – I would urge everyone to take up these appointments when offered them,” he says.
“Back in the days of Levington Horticulture, Steve and I were Area Sales Managers together - as such I’ve known him for over 27 years,” says ICL sales manager - Adrian Thirtle-Watts. “Over that time, he’s become a good friend as well as a colleague and valued member of my sales team.
“Steve’s passion for the job and seemingly limitless energy in everything he does will be very much missed by all his colleagues here at ICL. I have no doubt we will keep in touch, but I wish Steve, Liz and the family every happiness in their future endeavours.”
“With a wealth of knowledge in growing media and nutrition, Steve has been an invaluable source of information to us all at BHGS,” says Julian Ackerman, sales & development manager. “His recent battle with cancer and long-term commitment to fostering has never diminished his enthusiasm for horticulture. We wish Steve a very long and happy retirement.”
“The whole team at The Bransford Webbs Plant Company would like to say a huge and heartfelt thank you to Steve for all his support over the past 30 years,” says production director, Christine Chalmers. “His superb knowledge and guidance over the years has been hugely appreciated and helped us to grow the best quality plants for our customers.
“We would like to wish him all the very best in his retirement.”