After two days of informative seminars and a trade fair, attendees at last week’s London Produce Show and Conference got the chance to see a fruit production site firsthand as part of the numerous industry tours on offer.
Here at Fresh Fruit Portal, we went along with the 30-person group to the south-eastern county of Kent, often referred to as ‘The Garden of England’ for its abundance of fruit and vegetable production.
This year the destination was Chandler & Dunn, a pome fruit and plum grower established in 1809 that also has operations in arable and livestock farming, in addition to its very own butcher. Some 600 hectares are split equally between the three farming areas.
The farm was one of the first in the U.K. to grow the New Zealand-developed Jazz apple a little more than a decade ago. The popular fruit now represents around 20% of the company’s production, alongside the likes of Braeburn, Cox and Royal Gala.
Given the size of the operations, we were given a tour of the lush green farms, cold storage facilities and butcher on platforms towed by two tractors.
We first passed a Cox orchard, which one of the company’s directors Peter Chandler said had been quite heavily affected by spring frosts that took a bite out of the European apple industry. We then passed along side other varieties.
Chandler explained the company was a member of the Fruition Producer Organisation (PO), which is responsible for marketing several companies’ fruit, helping the growers to maximize returns.
Fruition PO owns 50% of the issued share capital of Worldwide Fruit Limited, the exclusive marketer of Jazz apples in the U.K.
While previously around 95% of the company’s apples were picked in September, the introduction of new varieties has spread out the harvest greatly. The farm’s Jazz apples are typically harvested around October and can be marketed through May the following year.
Chandler & Dunn has around 30 permanent members of staff, according to Chandler, with dozens of temporary workers who come in during the harvest season.
The fact that the majority of them come from other European countries has led to concern over how the U.K.’s impending exit from the EU could affect labor availability. As Chandler said: “We need them.”
The tour then took us through the livestock farms and we were able to have a peek inside the butcher. Upon finishing the tour, we were treated to a barbecue using meat from the butcher and sat down to eat all together next to one of the orchards.