Monday, 12 May 2014

Back to earth now after the really rather inspiring Nuffield trip. The visits were really interesting. We went to Kellys Turkeys  on the Friday, where the ethos was eating quality by breeding a type of turkey that is slower growing, which they then hang to increase the taste and tenderness. They have won numerous awards.Timing wise it was the wrong time of year to see the full scale of their operation but we saw thousands of turkey eggs which were just about to be incubated - each one was coded so that they knew exactly which breed and date it was collected. I would love to go back and see all those little gobblers being hatched out...
The next visit on the following day was to Tiptree Jams which was started up by the Wilkin family almost 300 years ago. They farm 850 acres and most of this is for fruit growing. Admirably they have not given in to cheap imports but have stuck to quality being the only big producer in the world of little scarlets, a variety of strawberry which is renowned for its flavour. Not only do they grow all the traditional fruits but they also grow medlars, quinces, damsons and mulberry's. A mulberry orchard takes 25 years to bear any fruit. In these days of instant everything, can you imagine waiting twenty five years before your labour is rewarded? It just wouldn't happen now. The work ethic was also commendable where each full time worker has a share in the company which can then be released when they retire. During busy times they employ up to four hundred people and they have built a really smart centre for them all to live in. Keeping the staff happy plays a big part and is almost certainly why Wilkins and Son Ltd have been so successful.
After lunch we went to Boxford farm which is where Copella fruit juice comes from. The orchards were planted under the instruction of Devora Peake in 1938 the daughter of Russian parents who owned a fruit plantation in Israel, inspired by her parents orchards she was determined to do the same in Suffolk and planted acres of orchards,with some of the original tree still bearing fruit now. She won an MBE in 1996. I never knew there was so much to growing and storing apples. It was absolutely fascinating.
Other visits included a farmer/chartered accountant, Nick Percival who has used some of his poorly producing arable land to set up some luxury chalets for the holiday trade. Beautifully done and great foresight.
Last but not least on the Sunday we visited our hosts farm, Tom Bradshaw where he has converted his redundant dairy buildings into a massive equestrian centre with 90 DIY stables.Each horse has half an acre which they are charged accordingly for. The equestrian side now provides more than 40 percent of his total farm income from his 650 acre farm.
A great trip and really interesting. The one thing all the different enterprises had was that they were managed by people who are not frightened to take risks, are able to think outside the box, who pay enormous attention to detail and most importantly have a huge enthusiasm and conviction for what they are doing.