?Sweeter varieties of sprout have created a resurgence in demand for the traditional vegetable, says sprout grower Roger Welberry. Next on the agenda: Sammy the Sprout

Britain's new-found enthusiasm for the schoolboy's least-favourite vegetable has given a boost to grower Roger Welberry. He has been keen to experiment with new varieties and grows 500 acres of sprouts at his 2,500-acre family-owned vegetable farm near Boston in Lincolnshire. He tried red Geronimo sprouts last year, but though they attracted attention, they did not prove viable. Organic sprouts, on the other hand, have been selling fast and Welberry has devoted 30 acres to them.

"They take a bit more husbandry but they are a profitable line and are in good demand," he said. One of the difficulties is that pests love an organic sprout, but Welberry has developed his own secret techniques for keeping them at bay. Sold on their stalks for a longer shelf life, the sprouts are popular in farm shops.

The Welberry family has been growing produce at Holme Farm for four generations, expanding from 70 acres 25 years ago by specialising in growing brassicas and selling them to wholesalers. The family was soon buying from other growers and acting as a fresh produce merchant, and two years ago it diversified into prepared vegetables. It now has a staff of 120, annual turnover of about £12m and has just built a £2m factory to chop vegetable ingredients for manufacturers.

However, the only major retailer that Welberry supplies directly is Asda, which has been a customer since he formed the company 20 years ago.

Most recently, he has set up Clean Cut, a company that specialises in trimming sprouts for the pot using a home-developed prototype machine.

"We decided that building the new factory, putting in new machinery and diversifying further was the way to go because we couldn't see core vegetables off the fields producing any more money than they did 10 years ago," said Welberry. "In 10 years time there will still be no more money because pressure from the multiples keeps prices down. Unless you add value by processing there's no profit in sprouts."

Welberry has also developed a cartoon character called Sammy Sprout, who may soon appear on stickers on packs of prepared sprouts to make them more attractive to children.

Sammy could also appear on button sprouts, which currently go for the frozen food market but which are becoming increasingly popular fresh alongside other baby vegetables.