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The English Apple Man


28th Jul 2023 - Top Fruit Industry 'Stalwart' retires

45 years and just a few more days to go!

Last week, Family, Friends and Colleagues gathered for a 'surprise retirement party' for Martin Simmonds, who has been central to the operational success of Home Grown Fruit since 1978.


45 years with one employer, is quite a story. Imagine starting out today and looking that far ahead!


From my recollection, Home Grown Fruit started n 1961, so Martin has been with HGF for 75% of its existence!


From the creation of HGF in 1961 until the 1990's the company stayed much the same, before in 1994 the name changed to The English Fruit Company (ENFRU) - by 1996 more changes as the company became FRUITION with a smaller but more dynamic entity as Category Management became the new norm!


In 2001 a joint venture between Fruition and ENZA of New Zealand became Worldwide Fruit Ltd.


Fruition PO was set up in 2003 on the merger of five existing producer organisations but can trace its roots back to 1962 with the Home Grown Fruits Co-operative Marketing Organisation.


Now anyone who has been involved in supplying Supermarkets with fruit (and all perishables) knows it is a fast moving, dynamic business, some would say; " highly stressful" existence!






It is remarkable that over all those 45 years, nobody can ever remember Martin losing his temper!

On 20th July, more than 80 former colleagues, current colleagues, friends and family gathered at The Crescent Turner Hotel at Whitstable for Martin's retirement party. The weather was kind and we all had a fantastic time!


Below: left. The Tepee where the party was held and right. A view towards Whitstable, with the sea in the distance



Below: left. Martin welcomes Chris Hatton for many years the company accountant, right. Martin chats with grower John Bray as The English Apple Man enjoys a pint of beer



Following a sumptuous barbecue, Speeches by Robert Hinge Fruition PO Chairman and Tony Harding - Technical Director Worldwide Fruit Ltd paid tribute to Martin's 45 years with HGF/Worldwide Fruit.


Below: left and right. Tony Harding and Robert Hinge review Martin's remarkable achievements



Below: left. Robert Hinge and right. Tony Harding



In his speech, Robert Hinge revealed a number of amusing 'anecdotes' associated with Martin's time at HGF/Worldwide Fruit. "Can you remember some of the events of 1978? - history in perspective, Spain was voting wether to become a democracy; the first solo expedition to the North Pole; smallpox had just been eradicated; Grease was the word; Kate Bush, Dire Straits and Police were all dominating the music charts. Geoff Boycott was Captain of England and he took 3 days to score 150 runs! Today 20th literally (20th July) Zac Crawley did it in 3.5 hours!


The World has moved on since then! "does the name Louise Brown mean anything to anyone? She was the first test tube baby then! This month in1978 she was born. "Now I don't think there is any coincidence but this was when Martin started here and I don't think he had anything to do with the test tube, but I saw a picture of her today, and (a big grin) - she looked remarkably like him!


From anecdotes to factual memories! Robert said a vital part of Martin's responsibility's was the fact that "we growers" had circa 300 stores x 100 tons all clamouring for theirs to be opened (and sold) first! Across the season, from September to April (and sometimes beyond) Martin selected each store opening based on his judgement of the 'need of each store' and having to deal calmly with individual growers persuasive pleas, with a calm, fair, but decisive manner!


Tony Harding


"Well, what a turn out, thank you all for coming with some of you travelling from far and wide. It's a tribute to Martin to see so many people here tonight who have a connection to Martin throughout his career.


"Hopefully this won't take much more than an hour"


There will be a bit of audience participation required because I was still at nursery school when Martin started his first day at work!


So, Martin graduated from Hadlow College (we have that in common) with the intention to never wanting to work in an office!


Well, it didn't quite work out that way did it Mart?


Martin started working with Home Grown Fruits on the 17th July 1978, employed as a salesman and working for Mike Green in River House, Canterbury and on the 28th July 2023. Martin will retire from Worldwide Fruit after an unbelievable 45 years of service.


"Martin; to complete a staggering 45 years service with one company is an amazing achievement and we thank you for your dedication to the business and your helpful and considerate approach to all the people you have worked with over the years. You will be deeply missed by all and you leave behind an unforgettable legacy which we will cherish.


Back to Martin's career. The era when Martin started at HGF was fondly described by all who were working for HGF during that time as the "Good Old Days" when customers were relatively pleasant and helpful to work with. Growers were making a fortune and able to fit in a minimum of 3 ski holidays and 2 Caribbean breaks a year while finding a few months during the summer to grow and pick the fruit during the 4 week harvest period!


One other aspect to why these days were termed the Good Old Days was probably more likely to do with the Friday night River House tradition with opening up the "RH Wine Vault" for some early weekend wind down or should it be wine down!! I'm so jealous I wasn't working then and its probably a good thing I wasn't. I'm sure there are plenty of great stories from these days with HGF employees, being easily led by growers to late night booze ups in Canterbury.


The English Apple Man Comments: As one of those 'Friday Night-ers' the Good Old Days refer to when UK fruit growers made a decent profit!


Martin has suggested over the last few years that we reintroduce The tradition of the 'Friday wind Down' and if we have another year like last year I might just do that!


The other big difference from then to now is the scale and shape of the industry. Martin/Gordon/Mike, - How many growers and packers were you working with? Correct me if I'm wrong but was it about 500 growers and 50 packhouses (slight exaggeration) in those days compared to 3 sites and 30 growers in current times? How things have changed...


As the industry changed so did the companies involved!


In 1987, Martin and his partner in crime Geoff Briggs were seconded to Tree Fresh who were a joint company between HGF and Glass Glover based in Long Acre, London. Early starts and late nights for 12 months, followed by a further 6 months going Harlow (pre Dartford Bridge so I can imagine that was a cracking car journey) for the same business.


The dynamic duo's fun ended after the 6 months in Harlow returning to the sanctuary of River House. HGF then became Fruition, dominating the UK top fruit industry and building a strong customer base focused around UK supply and a 52 week Waitrose business.


Martin's role evolving over time, working more on supply and starting to build that close bond with the growers and packers who he served fantastically during his career. Martin is highly regarded in the industry and over the years, he has built strong relationships with industry figures and bodies. I know his external peers will hold him high regard and his experience will be missed by all.


In 2001, Worldwide Fruit Ltd was formed with Fruition and ENZA coming together to form a unique offer of 52 week full category solution in apples and pears. Over the next 22 years Martin was part of the management team overseeing 3 packhouse closures, WFL facing big challenges and a drastically declining grower base! Never a quiet moment in our industry or our business!


Thankfully we pulled through all those adversities and the experience and professionalism of Martin and others like him, have helped put the business back on track and in a positive place for the future.


In more recent years Martin has performed the role of UK Planning Manager, performing a pivotal role in lining up the supply with the sales requirements and coordinating the production of the end product with our packhouse partners.


During the period of having Martin in my team, I can honestly say I have never heard him swear once! I find that more remarkable than his 45 years of service given some of the characters he has worked with over the years! However, that really typifies Martin. Always calm, considerate and respectful to others, a real gentlemen and a pleasure to work with.


You might have noticed but Martin doesn't give much away. However, we do know he has a passion for watching motorbike racing, DIY / Gardening (not sure if he really enjoys it or it's Jackie cracking the whip ) Gardening, Koi Carp found that out during COVID) watching cricket, walking Ted the dog and enjoying a nice glass of beer. Martin's other passion is his family and he is a committed Son, father to Michael and David and husband to Jackie.


By the way. "Jackie, where are you?? Martin asked me to add in the following because he was too scared to ask you but if you don't mind working for another 10 years, he can then enjoy more time do all those things I listed above; that would be fantastic!


So, to bring this to a close I would like to finish by saying that I couldn't have asked for a more loyal, committed, conscientious, helpful, respectful person to work with me than Martin. He will be missed by us all and it won't be the same without him.


Martin, enjoy your retirement. Make the most of it. Please send me a weekly crop report from Charles Atkins farm when walking the Ted the dog and please come to see us whenever you like.


All the best Martin!!!!



Below: Martin responds to Tony and Robert and thanks all those who attended, which included some who had travelled a very long way



Below: Martin's Birthday Cake and the late evening view of the Tepee



Comment The English Apple Man enjoyed working with Martin from 1994 - 2007 and many of the names mentioned in Robert and Tony's salute to Martin. I wish Martin many years of retirement fun with Jackie, Michael and David, 'oh and Ted the Dog' . "A nicer family you would be hard to find!


Click on Crescent Turner Hotel Whitstable



That is all for this week


Take care


The English Apple Man