Positive outlook for the fruit industry

The 2012 National Fruit Show was exceptionally well attended and the positive buoyant atmosphere during the two-day event has delighted the Show organisers and major sponsors.

Whilst the 2012 growing season has had some challenges the National Fruit Show presented a forward thinking and positive showcase for the industry. With trade space sold out in September the expansion of the show allowed 19 additional stands to take part as well as facilitating a wonderfully attended two-day conference.

Sarah Calcutt, Chairman said: “Having spoken to the exhibitors and visitors the resounding opinion is that this year’s show was upbeat, positive and well worth attending. The Marden Fruit Show Society have been organising the Show since 1933 and now more than ever it is vital to host an industry event were information and innovation can be shared.”

The standard of fruit entries for the fruit competitions exceeded expectations in view of the weather this season. There were 136 entries of top fruit with only two entries achieving a score of less than ninety points out of a possible one hundred. The highest accolade went to Loddington Farm, Linton, The Covent Garden Prize for the best exhibit of apples or pears in the Show was awarded 99.25 points for their entry in Class 17 – Any Other Variety Culinary. Loddington Farm was one of two growers who reached this near perfect score; the other was awarded to Mallions Farm, Curtisden Green, Cranbrook with an entry of Russets.

The final decision being under Rule 16. “We love rule 16,” commented Calcutt, “as the standard of fruit rises year on year we find we need to implement it more and more. It is a simple decision that the first entry to drop a point on the score card is placed second, the fact that we used this to decide our show champion shows how high the standard was this year.”

The Whitehead Monckton sponsored Conference was opened by David Hughes, Emeritus Professor of Food Marketing at Imperial College London who delivered to a packed audience a humorous and thought provoking look at consumer behavior and marketing.

Prof Hughes has travelled the world speaking about food trends and was able to give delegates a number of positive messages about the sector not least that there has been a resurgence in the eyes of the nation towards a positive portrayal of farmers and growers. David told the audience: “Farmers were becoming fashionable, even sexy and that many brands are using images of farming to positively endorse products. This presents exciting new marketing opportunities.”

The morning session continued with Adrian Barlow, Chief Executive of English Apples and Pears highlighting the challenges for this season and how to ensure that expectations are met. Miranda Ballard from Muddy Boots Real Foods was a much anticipated speaker who has in a short period of time achieved huge growth in her own company selling high quality, premium beef products. Miranda talked about her own marketing journey that was wholly transferrable to the fruit sector. The marketing theme continued with Peter Reeves from Arena Pursuits who successfully branded an apple juice and explained the process of maximizing brand identity and sales.

Andrew Gage Nsch, talked about his Nuffield Scholarship, which funded a research project looking at launching and sustaining products within the marketplace. His candid and heartfelt journey concluded with Andrew looking at his own farming business and making fundamental changes.

Whitehead Monckton, the Kent law firm, was delighted to sponsor the conference at this year’s show. This was the second year of their involvement, and wanted to give something back to their clients and the industry. The firm was determined to create a seminar programme where relevant issues were raised, and a wide selection of advice could be heard from experts in their field.

Marsha Marriner, Head of Whitehead Monckton’s Rural team commented: “For us it was a packed day and the star of the conference, without doubt, was Professor David Hughes, whose passion and enthusiasm for the sector was an inspiration to all. Despite the trying conditions that many growers have faced this year, the season finale was not a complete wash out, and there is hope for the future. The technology around the industry is changing and improving all the time and, quite frankly, the taste of the fruit speaks for itself! We’re already looking forward to next year.”

The afternoon sessions addressed employment, planning and tax. The quagmire of legal and compliance issues facing growers today can be daunting. The group of experts assembled to deliver seminars came from HSBC, Whitehead Monckton, Lambert and Foster and Red Eagle Recruitment. Growers were able to listen to the invaluable advice and pose questions after each session.

Day two saw Henke Nooteboom from Verbeek Boomkwekerijen in Holland explain the process involved in producing a commercial fruit tree. He said” “It takes two years to make an apple tree and three years to make a pear tree. Every time that we plant bench grafts or sleeping eyes we use fresh soil. It is not possible to use one parcel more than once because of soil health.”

The whole process at their Dutch site is highly innovative and they produce a staggering 2 million trees per year with a staff of 23 and around 100 seasonal workers.

The judging of the National ‘Tastiest Apple’ saw reigning champion Rubens knocked off the top spot although it took second, third and fourth prize. The 2012 ‘Tastiest Apple’ was won by Chandler & Dunn’s entry of Jazz. Society President, The Rt. Hon. Michael Jack and Society Chairman, Sarah Calcutt awarded Clive Chandler the £200 prize sponsored by The Fruit Grower magazine.

Created in New Zealand, the Jazz Apple variety is a cross between the UK’s two biggest selling varieties, Royal Gala and Braeburn. It was first planted in the UK in 2006 when the largest single apple variety plantation project saw 200,000 trees introduced.

The Tastiest Tomato competition now in its seventh year is supported by the Tomato Growers Association and is open to commercial growers only. This year there were a large number of entries and the judges commented on the excellent flavour and texture. Judged in four categories, beef, classic, cocktail and cherry and baby plum.

The winner and recipient of the David Stapley Trophy was Andy Roe from Flavourfresh Salads with a baby tomato called Cheryl. Second place was awarded to another cherry variety Piccolo grown by Robert Farthing of Cornerways Nursery in Norfolk and third place went to Brian Moralee from the Wight Salads Group with the baby plum variety Angelle, grown on the Isle of Wight.

The single most successful grower this year was J A & N J Bardsley from Staplehurst in Kent who won Class 1 Bramley 90-100mm (97.75) and Class 2 Bramley 80-90mm (95.5), Class 4 Cox’s Orange Pippin 70-75mm (96), Class 11 Braeburn (98.25) and Class 14 Conference (98.5).

Newmafruit Farms near Canterbury won Class 3 Kanzi, Miller & Bradley Class 5 Cox’s Orange Pippin or sport 65-70mm and Class 8 Gala. Other winners included A C Goatham & Son for Rubens, A Hinge & Sons Ltd, Jazz, Mallions Farm for Russet and any other variety dessert apple and J A Colthrup & Partners, Cameo.

The pear results saw D C & R E Banfield come first in Class 13 Comice, R R Day and P J D Hall Concorde and Class 16 Any Other Variety was won by J L Baxter & Sons. A J & C J Snell, excelled in the Strawberry and Raspberry classes gaining first in the Everbearer Class 31 and first in Class 32 raspberries. EU Plants Ltd from Abingdon Oxon won Class 30, Summer Fruiting Strawberry and T Chambers came first with his entry of Blackberries. E J Nicholls had the best entry of Kentish Cobnuts but organisers were disappointed that this year there were no entries of any other variety of cobnuts or walnut entries.

The Juice competition, which is judged prior to the Show, once again proved to be a monumental task for the panel of judges. The three Classes in the National Fruit Show Juice Competition are Class 40, blended juice of two or more apple varieties, Class 41 single variety juice and Class 42 a blend of two or more native fruits.

The panel of judges faced the difficult task of choosing winners from fourteen juices entered in Class 40, twenty-seven single varieties and nine from class 42.

The winning blended juice was from Maynard House with Early Windsor & Grenadier. Maynard House Orchards are based in the heart of Suffolk where the family farm was established in 1934 and the farm has been producing award winning apple juices since 1992.

First place for the single variety juice was awarded to Hill Farm, Southampton with their unusual Ashmead’s Kernal. The winner of Class 42 was R H & J C Elgie from Hilter Fruit Farm, Gloucestershire. The judges were very impressed with R H & J C Elgie’s Apple and Raspberry remarking how difficult it is to have the true raspberry fruit flavour without any off flavours.

Entries were slightly down on last year due to a late season and several previous entrants having not yet started pressing. Robert Oliver, Marden Fruit Show Society Vice Chairman co-ordinates the juice competition and said: “whilst we were a little down on previous years we were delighted to gain a couple of new exhibitors. The Village Orchards’ juice came from their community orchard based in Northamptonshire and they entered both Class 40 and 41. The other new exhibitor was Pershore College, Worcestershire the entry of blended Bramley and Concorde came third in Class 42.”

The quality of the juices were as usual very high with the main reason for marking down being ‘flavour’ possibly being due to the late season and the fruit being pressed before the flavours have fully developed.

The 2012 Pumpkin Challenge organized for Kent Primary Schools proved popular and with a £200 prize kindly provided by Hadlow College the display of Jubilee decorated pumpkins was a popular attraction during the Show. The winning entry came from Lady Boswell’s CE Primary School in Sevenoaks. The two pupils responsible for growing and decorating the pumpkin were able to attend the prize giving on Thursday 18th October and were delighted to receive the Pumpkin Challenge Trophy and prize fund.

This year the winner of the Bonanza Prize at the National Fruit Show was George Chambers part of Mid Kent Growers. The Chambers family bought Northiam Farm, Horsmonden in 1929, purchasing 75 acres of land, of which 29 acres were growing hops and 30 acres were orchards. Fruit became the focus and in 1988 the business expanded, buying a further 40 acres. G H Chambers grows Cox, Discovery, Gala, Rubens, and Worcester dessert apples, along with Bramley cooking apples and Conference pears. The Farm entered Bramley, Ruben and Conference and were eligible along with 20 other growers to enter the Bonanza Draw.

Adrian Williams, Managing Director of M3 Solar attended the National Fruit Show Dinner at Turkey Mill in Maidstone, where he drew the Bonanza Winner and was delighted to give George Chambers a voucher for the innovative 2012 prize; either a domestic 4kw solar array 16 panel system for a residential dwelling, which normally retails at £10,000 or for the first time they will offer George an alternative prize; £10,000 towards the cost of a 50kw system.

M3 Solar have become a major supplier for the fruit growing industry having installed 50kw arrays at J L Baxter & Son and at F Edmed & Sons both based in Maidstone and F W Mansfield & Sons, Canterbury. George Chambers is part of Mid Kent Growers and another of the co-operatives growers has already invested in solar with the Company.

Adrian Williams said: “The dinner was fantastic and it was great to be welcomed into the open arms of the industry. We enjoyed learning more about the challenges they face and how they have adapted over the years to overcome these.”

Adrian continued: “A common theme throughout all of the conversations we had with growers was how poor things had been this year. Because of this, we decided we wanted to support the industry a bit more and so we are delighted to have offered a discount of 10% to all the Bonanza qualifiers from the cost of any solar installations they do through us.”

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