A busy week for The English Apple Man. National Fruit Show dominates my time.
On Sunday, I visited Pippins Farm at Pembury in Kent. Each year David Knight and his family dedicate one day in aid of Hospice in the Weald, a very worthy cause in support of a facility, much needed by those unfortunate people who succumb to the most painful and frightening life experience.
Pippins Farm raised £1120 for Hospice in the Weald last year and with the very sunny day on Sunday with lots of visitors to Pippins, the prospect of raising 'at least' a similar sum seemed highly probable.
Set in the most beautiful countryside, just outside of Pembury in the direction of Paddock Wood, Pippins is owned by David & Veronica Knight. With more than 50 varieties of apples & pears, ranging from heritage varieties like Peasgood Nonsuch to the current national favourite Gala, there is something to choose from, whatever your taste.
Visitors had the opportunity to tour the farm, sample many of the fifty different varieties grown on the farm, engage in some 'Pick your Own' activity, watch the juice pressing process, visit the bee keeper 'shed' enjoy a wonderful display of 'home' baked food, and try their luck on the Tombola run by supporters of Hospice in the Weald.
To cater for the large numbers expected, the sales & tasting tables were placed in a barn across from the farm shop. The opportunity to taste so many old & modern varieties before purchase was clearly appreciated by the many visitors on Sunday.
Veronica Knight looked after the 'tasting' table and explained the varying virtues of each variety. The sales table was constantly busy throughout the day.
Honey and Apple Juice from Pippins Farm on display.
The pictures below show this delightful little boy James enjoying 'Harvesting' with his Daddy in the Braeburn orchard at Pippins Farm open day.
Many interesting aspects of life at Pippins Farm were on display. Apple Juice is an important element of the income stream for David & Veronica Knight. There was a great deal of interest in the juice operation.
Adding to the fund raising activities, The Tombola and Food Stall drew a steady stream of visitors.
Latest news! David Knight informs me that this year The Pippins Open Day raised £2,700 for Hospice in the Weald, twice last year's sum!
The National Fruit Show
Judging on Tuesday; always an enjoyable occasion with a chance to catch up with old friends. The number of show entries this year is a 'near record' 150 entries.
The modus operandi brings together pairs of judges; this ensures a balanced view of each exhibit. For a number of years now, I have been paired with my 'mentor' Roger Worraker, now an octogenarian, but with an undiminished love of our wonderful Apple & Pear industry.
The decision making process, requires assessment by the judges of six crucial elements. Points are awarded for; 1) Freedom from bruise & blemish. 2) Freedom from pest & disease. 3) Uniform size & shape. 4) Uniform colour. 5) Internal condition & 6) Skin finish.
The standard of all the exhibits is very high, the differential between 1st and last in class no more than a point or two. To achieve this level of excellence exhibitors will spend many hours searching through thousands of near perfect fruit, in search of 3 single layer trays of visually uniform fruit.
Over many years of judging the gradual change in our English apple profile is evident in the show fruit before us. 20 years ago the exhibits would be dominated by Cox with supporting varieties like Spartan, Lord Lambourne, Laxton Superb, Egremont Russet, Jonagold, Charles Ross, Fiesta, Idared, James Grieve, Kidd's Orange Red and Golden Delicious.
Today, Cox is still prominent, but Gala entries are now the dominant force. Braeburn, Cameo, Kanzi, Jazz and Rubens increasing in numbers, 'year on year'.
The competition is not confined to apples & pears, even with 20 classes open to dessert apple, culinary apples and pears, it is the most competed for category; the juice competition is now celebrating its 25th year and categories for strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, Kentish cobnuts, walnuts and tastiest tomato complete the mix.
This year the National Fruit Show was formally opened by Jim Paice, The Minister of State for Agriculture & Food. The Minister's presence was a fitting recognition of the 'resurgence' of our industry, and its contribution to increasing home production and improving our 'balance of payments' position
The tastiest apple competition was won for the second year running by the variety RUBENS, this year grown by Nigel Bardsley. The Jazz competition winner was Simon Bray. These two varieties are both superb apples; visual and eating quality is among the very best and they will gain an ever increasing share of the market in the years ahead.
Another 'first' at the show, centered on the subject of new varieties; on the J.R. Breach stand a new apple was launched; 'Cheerfull Gold' a new variety bred at Valois Nurseries in France from a 'mother' tree in the J.R.Breach collection.
Back in 1972; "it seems like only yesterday" an addition to the show classes was launched. The Bonanza Prize was designed back then to stimulate interest in entering the show classes by allowing each entry a place in the BONANZA draw; e.g. one entry, one place in the draw, 5 entries, five places in the draw!
Each year an allied trade company has generously donated the Bonanza Prize. This year Pro-Tech Marketing has taken up the mantle. The Bonanza Prize is; A weekend for two in Prague, the historic city in The Czech Republic.
This year the winner was David Banfield who has been competing for many years and it is very pleasing to see a small grower, win this coveted prize. Remarkably David only entered one entry in the show and his entry number was no 13.
David received his prize from Show President Michael Jack and Chair of the society Sarah Calcutt.
Next week, I will review my experiences at Countryside Live with my NFS colleagues and cover in greater detail aspects of The National Fruit Show.
The English Apple Man