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The English Apple Man


8th Sep 2023 - The English Apple Man visits Apple Logistics

In recent weeks The English Apple Man has looked at the growers preparation for harvest and the servicing of storage facilities as the new season approaches


This week we visit Apple Logistics Ltd. a company servicing the transportation needs of growers, storage sites and packhouses.


Below: Clara - Transport Manager at Apple Logistics Ltd.


On Tuesday The English Apple Man visited Graham Hill at his office at Court Lodge at East Farleigh in Maidstone where he and his partner Steve Packer mastermind the movement of apples from farms to storage complexes and packing sites across the South East of England and beyond.


While there, I met Clara - Transport Manager and Paee who deals with finance.


Clara with her language skills (speaks several) is able to converse fluently with the many nationalities holding key positions at the many farms, stores and packing sites to whom she speaks on a daily basis.


With Paee keeping on top of business finances, the management and administrative team of Graham, Steve, Clara and Paee deliver a quality service to all the Apple Logistics customers!


The Apple Logistics Ltd business grew out of A&P Hill started by his father and mother (Aileen & Peter Hill) in 1979 and which Graham joined as a young man in the 1980's.


That business was built on supplying apples for juicing and other processing needs to companies in England and 'across the water' in Northern Ireland. As his father Peter reached retirement age (but never fully retired) Graham took on the management of the business.


Around 14 years ago, Steve Packer joined Graham having previously been with FOURAYES one of the major processors supplied by A&P Hill, 'the seeds' of a new company were sown!


Having relied on small independent hauliers for their transport needs, the less of one of their key drivers stimulated the need to bring the transport 'in house' - APPLE LOGISTICS Ltd. was born!


The A&P Hill business has now been re-branded Hill Fresh Fruit Ltd


Since the launch of Apple Logistics the organic growth of the business has seen the lorries expand considerably, with 8 tractor units and 15 trailers offering 'flat bed' - 'curtain sided' - and 'fully refrigerated' trailers able to fulfil customers specific needs.


With the capacity to meet any haulage requirements, the business has grown the 'general haulage' element considerably and Graham highlights this for ongoing growth.


The scope of the business covers moving bins of fresh picked apples from the farm to specialist storage sites, transferring stored fruit to specialist packing operations, delivering apples onward to Supermarkets etc. and then transporting empty bins back from packhouse to the growers. Graham said circa 60% of the Apple Logistics haulage involves this farm, storage, packhouse operation.


Fourayes is an important customer for Apple Logistics, while Hill Fresh Fruit is a major suppler to COPELLA.


Copella juice is a British fruit juice brand that was founded in 1969 by Devora Peake and her family. The brand is now owned by Tropicana, which is part of PepsiCo1. The juice is still made at Boxford Farm in Suffolk, which was sold to a Belgian drinks firm called Konings in 2016. Konings has a long-term deal to continue manufacturing Copella products


Following our 'catch up' at the Apple Logistics office, Graham took me on a tour of the area around the Marden area, pointing out the changes that have taken place in recent years. This highlighted the 'good and the bad' things that are changing the countryside and the lives of those in the growing community.


The impact of low prices and inflationary inputs has resulted in many orchards being grubbed.


In the pictures below, the demoralizing story is clear to see!


This farm in Marden was a demonstration of good management and varieties, but is now gone, just empty fields as the plough returns the soil which once provided top quality apples (and employment) to commodity crops.


Below: the farm in September 2016



Below: Today: left. Grubbed trees in the distance wating for the fire and right a baren landscape,



Below: The tractor & plough burying all remains of the previous life as an orchard



Our next visit took us to Clive Baxter's farm where he has planted a large area of vines, reducing the reliability on apples and pears.


Below: the view from the top of the farm down across this south facing slope emphasises the commitment to the future.



Below: left and right. these vines are well furnished with a good crop of grapes



Our next visit took us to two farms near Winchet Hill near Goudhurst where hops and apples are still grown. No hop picking that day, but a short drive around orchards looking at Bramley and Gala followed


Below: a Bramley tree of 'some vintage'



Below: left. Gala and right. Bramley - both at Mallions Farm




During our tour we stopped for lunch at Balfour Winery at Hush Heath Estate


Situated in 'Five Oak Lane' near Staplehurst, The Balfour Winery is open for tours of the winery and hosts an excellent restaurantt


The Estate comprises 400-acres of manicured vineyards, apple orchards, wildflower meadows and ancient oak woodland, rich in flora and fauna. Sustainability and conservation are of paramount importance and reflected in the practices used across the Estate.





Our last visit was to see Louise Day at Great Cheveney Farm and Prime Produce a packing and marketing company owned by Louise Day and Mark Gaskain and located at Great Cheveney.


After the depressing news of two large packing operations closing, it was heartening to visit Prime Produce who will be handling much of the fruit previously stored and packed elsewhere.






That is all for this week


Take care


The English Apple Man