Francesco Cannatella left school at just eight years old. He went to work alongside his father and uncles in the fields around Cianciana in Sicily where they lived. His first job was to take his family bread, cheese and wine as they cultivated the land. Just a few miles away in Burgio in the same Sicilian province of Agrigento another young boy, Salvatore Colletti, was helping his father Giuseppe to grow tomatoes and other vegetables to eat, trade and sell. They didn’t know each other, but the land was their common bond. It was in their blood. It would tie them together.
When Salvatore came over to England at the age of thirteen with his mother and father, he had only the proverbial shirt on his back. He stayed at school for just six months, leaving to work on farms and in factories to help his family earn a living. They were starting again from scratch. It was the same story for Francesco who arrived a year later in 1958 to join his father, another Salvatore. Aged sixteen he found work wherever he could – in factories, on the rails … and naturally enough in greenhouses.
English nurseries in those days were simple but inefficient wooden houses. Still living and working in separate places, Francesco and Salvatore knew they could do better, and grow great produce the way they’d learned in Sicily. So at 23, Salvatore bought and enlarged a two acre plot at Roydon with four other Italian partners – to grow cucumbers instead of roses. Francesco bought nurseries for cucumbers and tomatoes at Tylers Cross, Nazeing, Hoddesdon and Waltham Abbey. When they finally met they became friends and went into business together, joining forces and buying Smallford in 1977. Half a metre of snow fell the night before they moved in. It wasn’t the most auspicious start.
But the business developed and thrived. It grew beautiful tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. Markets, pack houses and retailers were queuing up to buy. And there were two other important new additions – Francesco’s son Sam and Salvatore’s son Joe. Born and raised on the nurseries, they worked in the business from an early age. After school and at weekends they made boxes, packed cucumbers, watered the plants and learned at their fathers’ side. Later they worked in every area from the greenhouses to the pack house and distribution. When both fathers sadly passed away within months of each other, Joe and Sam were more than ready to take over in early 2011.
Still a family business – and now in our third generation – Cannatella & Colletti is dedicated to growing and supplying the very best quality tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers to London’s top restaurants, fine dining establishments and luxury retailers. We use only 100% natural growing methods from the highest quality seeds in a completely controlled environment. Our five nurseries in Hertfordshire, Essex and Berkshire are all less than an hour from central London – so we can deliver our fresh produce direct to your doorstep within 24 hours* of harvest.
* Orders received by 11am during the week will be delivered on the next working day.