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The English Apple Man


18th Aug 2023 - Looking back half a century

In last week's Journal. The English Apple Man visited John Dench at Ringden Farm in East Sussex.


This small family fruit farm has been in the family since John's grandfather Ben bought it in 1963 as a 17acre unit.


While visiting John last week, he mentioned his grandmother (now well into her 90's had found an old Grower Magazine from 1971 in which her husband Ben had written an article about the anxieties held by many apple growers about the high probability of The UK joining the EEC Common Market.


Readers of The English Apple Man will be well aware of my concerns vented in various editions of the EAM Journal about the mounting challenges facing our fruit industry, not just apples and pears but soft fruit, stone fruit and the horticultural sector in general.


Therefore I thought it worth while to 'take a trip down memory lane' and read Ben's viewpoint from 50 plus years ago.


I have managed to copy the article in full, although the type is not as clear as it was in 1971. However, if the reader increases the letter size on their PC (to 150) it is quite readable.


In front of, rather than after, I have taken elements of Ben's story and made comments relevant to today!



When Ben Dench started his 'foray' into fruit growing, he followed others, who having served their country in War into the life as a fruit farmer. Starting then when growing fruit could be quite profitable, with apple prices strong with little competition from abroad.


It is clear Ben applied detail to his fruit growing, pruning, feeding and looking after the orchards. He mentions achieving 700 bushel per acre of Cox which was very good for the variety and that time!


Cox Orange Pippin was 'KING' in those days and attention to detail on a small acreage could (and did) provide a decent living.


The great threat, "well perceived as such; Golden Delicious planted by French growers with generous government assistance. could/would crop at twice the tonnage per acre that Cox could achieve.


In his article Ben talks of marketing and the very basic approach by many wholesalers. He expands on cooperative marketing and the desperate need for more quality storage to extend the season. He joined a small marketing group MARKADS and became involved in the management of the group.





Ben stresses the need for modern C/A storage to extend our selling season, he quotes "it is surely dotty that we find ourselves in the position of being forced to market our fruit irrespective of market conditions simply because we are unable to preserve it in fresh and consumable condition".


Ben continues: "Planning our marketing is one thing and the method if selling another. I quite often visit Covent Garden market and come away full of despair at the way most of our produce is being handled, for for it doesn't seem much different to what it was 20 years ago. It seems to me that modern trends in buying and have passed many wholesalers by without them hardly noticing. Again there are honourable exceptions who are prepared to get up off their bottoms and are involved in new methods of selling both to their own advantage and their growers advantage


The English Apple Man Comments: "At that time (early 1970's) my father (who had always been particular about who he sent his apples to) sent most of our apples to an marketeer of high aspirations, this served us well until (after he died in 1975) I started marketing through Norman Collett to Sainsbury, Tesco etc. in 1978.


Below: "Read Ben Dench's article from 1971




That is all for this week; next week The EKFS Orchard Competition Farm Walk


Take care


The English Apple Man