This is the 5th in the series of talks which have taken place over the years since 2007 – each event dealing with different themes which add information relevant to encouraging renewed interest in fruit production and market development in Cornwall and the South West.
List of subjects covered
Subjects covered included production and marketing of nuts, adding value to regional apple juice products by adding ethically sourced Columbian exotic fruit – with stories attached; local sourcing the role of supermarkets (A case study from Waitrose in Devon sourcing apple juice and apples from a local orchard).
Opportunities for growing and marketing nuts
Our nut expert from Kent, Alexander Hunt from Potash Farm showed what was possible in relation to marketing your product in all different forms including ‘added value’ and related sundry products and through all sorts of outlets, including on-line sales, farmers markets, food festivals, trade outlets restaurants, visitor attractions and gift shops. He had a second business selling nut trees that dovetailed effectively into his retail food products business – as when one was busy during the year the other was quiet. Alexander highlighted the increased importance of e-marketing for driving sales and the importance of social media.
Example of supermarkets working with local producers.
Mark Shepherd store manager for Waitrose in Sidmouth talked about Waitrose values in terms of ethical, production methods, produces integrity and values of producers. It takes a little while for a relationship between the supermarket and producer to happen – however by doing this the longer term relationship is then strengthened. Mark talked about the degree of flexibility they have shown when developing a working relationship with local producers to meet the producers needs. He also indicated regional difference existed in local supply practices and customer preferences in different parts of the British Isles. Importance of the story behind the food was also highlighted. We of the success of the link with Richard and Sue Smedley at Four Elms Orchard who now supply apples and juice into Waitrose stores in the South West. Interest in local producers was on going and evolving.
Mixing the exotic with regional apple juice
Rutie Ballastas from Fruito del Espiritu has been developing an export market for export exotic fruit pulp, Lulo, Mora and Maracuya from Columbia (they have an interest sharp taste that can complement apple juice) and exotic dry fruit mixes – which can be eaten as a snack as part of your 5 a day fruit and vegetables. There are also possibilities for using these fruit in ice creams and bakery products. These products have a strong ethical stories attached to them linked to improved livelihoods community cohesion linked to the producers in Columbia. She has worked with Richard Toft at Avonbank Juice at Pershore College who has successfully produced mixes of the exotic fruit pulp blended with English apple juice. She is keen to work with regional apple juice producers interested in blending the exotic with the local.
Is there a role for a New LSA (Land Settlement Association)?
Peter Clarke historian of the LSA, gave an overview of the history of the Land Settlement Association from its inception in the mid 1930’s when it was designed to get unemployed families trained and in houses on small holdings on estates with a central packhorse in different parts of Britain. The LSA had a central marketing organisation looking at market demand for fruit and veg and how it could be met by assigning production to suitable growers (a top down approach). The LSA structure allowed for sharing of equipment, transport and labour – such as for fruit harvest on some estates. It’s success grew from the Second World War when people with more agricultural experience got involved in growing. From the 1950’s many modern practices in fruit and veg production were innovated by the LSA. By the time the LSA was wound up as it was deemed to be a government QUANGO around 1982/83 estates were major suppliers of certain salad crops. Some of the producers carried on their estates, others have become unproductive wilderness. William Hudson from East Anglia Food Links and Hodmedod put the case for a revived New LSA, with a suggestion of ten estates across Britain. Each estate consisting of ten sites with two family holdings of 50 hectares. Each estate would have its own packhorse, kitchen to make value added products, farm shop that could also sell other local produce. By having estates spread across Britain in different climatic locations it would provide capacity and continuity to supply locally and supermarket retailers. Key point again was shared resources, a marketing organisation identifying what the market was and was going to produce it. Differences from the original LSA was to do with the land – instead of buying the land which was a huge burden for the original LSA the idea is to work with sympathetic estate owners who are happy to rent out two 50 hectare blocks. William went into the numbers the costs for setting up the project and the turnover for the growers on the holdings. The significant point was it had to be high enough to provide an income for families and cover equipment depreciation.
Production and market for wine, juice and cider
There was also a very good over view from Jon Clatworthy of Vigo Ltd. about the market developments for wine, cider and juice. Markets for English wine (particularly sparkling), cider and juice are set to grow in the near future. The need to seek advice about planning a new orchards and particular vineyards before planting was stressed – to enable a new enterprise to succeed. Attention to detail is needed in both areas but particularly in the case of wine production. They touched on the different options for processing, packaging and marketing wine, apple juice and cider. There has been considerable expansion of orchard planting in Cornwall in the last few years.
Better use of land – market opportunity linked to ‘Terroir”
Pip Howard, silvaculturalist based near Poitier in France, outlined differences in attitude between France and the UK in relation to the landscape. In France the landscape is viewed far more in terms of production – and that includes trees and hedgerows. In Britain we have had more of an aesthetic view of the landscape. In France Terroir is important and they are capitalizing on it in relation to the local land and soils impact on flavour of produce. Produce is marketed locally at one price and nationally and at resorts at a higher prices. In Britain we could learn from our French neighbours about the value of terroir in terms of production and marketing local and regional produce with distinct variations in flavour due to terroir. In France soil and soil ecology appear to be taken more seriously than in the UK, in relation to the impact on tree growth, but in France and UK there is a need to improve knowledge of correct ‘spademanship’ when planting new trees to prevent soil smear killing trees.
Better use of land for fruit and vegetable production and agroforestry
Thanks to my co-chair Jeremy Best from Mitchell Fruit Gardens for his helpful advice in relation to staging the event.
Duchy College, Rural Business School supported the event with a training budget in conjunction with the Eden Project who provided a venue.
Thanks to Tamar Grow Local who provided funding towards the writing up of Cornwall and South West Fruit Focus events.