The opportunity to visit growers at this time of the year is always an enjoyable experience.
On Tuesday 2nd July BIFGA held their 31st AGM at Castlewood Farm at Teynham in East Kent.
Castlewood Farm is one of two farmed by Stewart Wood; the home farm (adjoining) is Teynham Court Farm and Stewart rents the land at Castlewood from a School.
Stewart has invested heavily in young trees and a modern Controlled Atmosphere storage facilty. He markets his fruit through AC Goatham at Flanders Farm.
First on the agenda, Chairman John Breach welcomed BIFGA members to the 31st AGM. John was accompanied by BIFGA Secretary Judi Perry, and Vice Chairman Clive Edmed.
Below: left to right; Clive Edmed - John Breach - Judi Perry
Below: Sarah Calcutt - ESP Operations Director and Chair of The National Fruit Show and right; PLU redesign for loose fruit GrEAT British
Before staring the formal business, John Breach invited Sarah Calcutt in her role as English Apples and Pears (EAP) Operations Director. Sarah updated members on the EAP Campaign for 2019 crop.
Sarah covered many aspects of the EAP Pro-active Board and Promotions Committee; shared meetings with retailer engagement through Promotional Committee members, supported by the core EAP team and PR agency. Good relationships benefitting the Great British Apples message.
EAP lobbying cohesively together with the National Farmers Union (NFU) & Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and regular DEFRA meetings regarding Labour, Productivity, Producer Organisations (PO's) and Electronic Leveling Modules(ELM's)
A clear communication message: 'An Apple a Day'
A 'Peer' review of nutritional research assessing core health messages: snacking/calories, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity delivering £417,000 PR value from 6 months activity, reach of 63 million people; 57 articles in the consumer press and 13 articles in the trade press!
The PLU redesign for loose fruit GrEAT British
The EAP Press/consumer launch of the 2019 season in October via broadcast, national press and online
DEVELOPING THE GREAT BRITISH APPLES IDENTITY The Union Jack needs to be at the forefront of all messaging, our apples are Great and we need everyone to EAT one a day
Following the formalities of the BIFGA AGM John Breach thanked the evening's sponsors Energy Renewals and NP Seymour and invited each sponsor to present an overview of their products.
First up: Ken Warner of Energy Renewals who introduced the SMARTCOOL a device which monitors and controls the efficiency of cold storage refrigeration compressors. The system interfaces with existing controls and reduces compressor running time through more efficient control. Ken said savings of 40% on energy costs can be made.
Next: Claire Seymour reviewed the many products supplied by NP Seymour and told attendees about a new device capable of removing some of the lower leaves on trees allowing better light interception for fruit colour and quality and enhancing next year's fruit bud. See grapevine defoliator DEFOLIATOR
Below: left; Ken Warner from Energy Renewals and right; Claire Seymour of NP Seymour
After the sponsors 'pitch' - Colin Corfield presented an overview of how he changed his farm - originally growing dessert apples - into an award winning producer of apple juices Owlets Fruit Juices
As the AGM came to a close, BIFGA Vice Chairman Clive Edmed took the opportunity to thank John Breach for his 31 year tenure as Chairman. As he rightly said; "without John Breach, there would never have been a BIFGA - "John Breach is BIFGA!"
Below: left; Colin Corfield and right; Clive Edmed
Below: BIFGA member and Kent fruit grower Nick Swatland
Before leaving the meeting for our orchard tour Nick Swatland gave an overview of crop prospects for the coming season.
In spite of the very warm weather around blossom time - "remember Easter" - the apple crop appears variable. Cox, Braeburn and even Gala have patchy areas within an orchard - some trees heavily laden and others with very little crop.
Nick said Cox is the most affected with some trees lacking any fruit at all. Gala is the least affected by variability.
Conference pears appeared to have a very heavy set but when the fruitlets turn over and the weaker fruit starts to drop; it is then that the crop potential becomes clearer.
This year growers are reporting after the expected drop, further thinning out is happening.
Experience tells us that in the right conditions (primarily enough water) pear size at point of harvest often delivers a heavier than anticipated crop.
The prognosis for variable crops was certainly not evident at Castlewood Farm and visiting growers commented that Stewart's crop is the best they have seen
Click on: BIFGA website to learn more about the objectives of this Independent Grower Association.
Tour of the orchards
Stewart Wood escorted the BIFGA members on a tour of the orchards, traveling on tractor drawn trailers.
The apples and pears grown on the two farms are: Gala 9.9 hectares, Cameo 7.2 hectares, Braeburn 5.7 hectares, Cox 2.4 hectares, Bramley 1.3 hectares, Early Windsor 0.5 hectares and Conference pears 9.8 hectares
Below: Stewart Wood
Stewart said most of his orchards are planted at 2,800 trees per hectare with trees 1 metre apart.
Below: Tractor, trailer and hay bales transporting BIFGA members around Castlewood Farm
Below: Gala One in 2nd leaf
Below: Tractor and Trailer rides
Braeburn on Bibaum 'twin leader' trees and right; Early Windsor apples
Below: Braeburn Hillwell
Below: A new Cameo orchard and right; Conference pears
After the orchard tour BIFGA members returned to the farm yard to enjoy a sumptuous buffet supper and Owlet's fruit juices.
That is all for this week
The English Apple Man