17th July 2020


Rural Rap

A KENT-BASED FRUIT PRODUCER HAS ACQUIRED THE ASSETS OF A NEARBY COMPETITOR, reports Farming UK.  Bardsley England, a leading UK fruit grower, has acquired the trading assets of Newmafruit, in a move that will increase fruit production volume from 10,000 tonnes to 23,000 tonnes.  Newmafruit, a neighbouring family run business, owns 485ha of fruit producing land.  Following the acquisition, Bardsley England will operated 820ha of productive orchards and agricultural land.  farminguk.com/news/kent-fruit-farm-ups-volumes-after-acquiring-nearby-competitor_56095.html

THE RELEASE OF A HERD OF BISON INTO KENT IS PLANNED FOR SPRING 2022, reports the Guardian and Kent Wildlife Trust.  Wild bison are to return to the UK for the first time in 6,000 years, with the release of the small herd into the Wilder Blean project.  The £1m project will reintroduce the animals in a bid to help secure the future of the endangered species.  It is also hoped that they will naturally regenerate a former pine wood plantation by killing off trees, creating a healthy mix of woodland, scrub and glades, boosting insect, bird and plant life.  Initially one male and three females will be released, and it is anticipated that natural breeding will increase the size of the herd.  The enormous creatures can weight up to a tonne.  theguardian.com/environment/2020/jul/10/wild-bison-to-return-to-uk-kent

SALES OF BERRIES HAVE ROCKETED DURING THE LOCKDOWN THANKS TO GOOD GROWING CONDITIONS AND CORONAVIRUS, reports the Grocer.  Data suggests a double digit value in sales growth compared with the same period last year for all major berry crops.  Strawberries added close to £20m in sales, taking their value to over £100m.  Blueberries added 20% and raspberries grew 29%.  Blackberries were the standout perform, increasing both value and volume of sales by over 50%.  The UK berry industry is now worth £1.58bn (up 10% year on year) and benefitted from good weather in May and June, as well as the changes in consumer behaviour triggered by lockdown.

FIELDS ACROSS KENT ARE CURRENTLY BLOOMING WITH LAVENDER, reports Kent Online.  The crop is waiting to be harvested and shipped across the world.  The quality of the plant grown here is so high, its extracted oils are wanted across the food and beauty industry.  Castle Farm in Sevenoaks has 140 acres devoted to the plant.  Originally a dairy farm, the family moved into dried flower production in the 80s and 90s.  Then the market declined, so the farm diversified into growing crops for essential oils, most recently focusing entirely on lavender. The Kent climate is such that lavender grown here is among the world’s highest quality.  And it’s not just the beauty industry that is interested, Castle Farm has also been working on developing lavender as a food flavour.   kentonline.co.uk/sevenoaks/news/the-history-behind-kents-lavender-fields-230359/

AN 87-YEAR OLD KENT FARMER STILL RUNS HER 70-ACRE SHEEP FARM IN KENT, reports Farming UK.  Marion Pont has lived on her family farm in Bethersden for over 70 years and still runs the farm with the help of two off-road mobility scooters.  First owned by her parents, the holding has reared milking cows, grown crops and now breeds sheep.  With the help of her sister-in-law and nephew, Marion tends to 80 lambing sheep using her trusty scooters – her only means of remaining mobile around the farm.   Her rugged Supersport, built over 20 years ago, and a TGA Breeze GT enable her to tend to her flock, mend fences and carry feed.   farminguk.com/news/elderly-farmer-still-working-thanks-to-off-road-scooters_56074.html

THE PRICE OF FARMLAND ROSE BY AN AVERAGE OF 3% IN ENGLAND IN THE FIRST HALF OF THE YEAR, reports Farming UK. The rise has been attributed to “historically low supply” and “pent-up demand.”  The latest figures from Strutt & Parker’s Farmland Database shows the average price of arable sold during H1 was £9,400/acre, up from a 2019 average of £9,100/acre.  Although the market was effectively paused during the lockdown period, low supply and pent up demand helped to push up average prices.   However, not all vendors would have benefitted from the rise – while 40% of land sold for over £10,000/acre or more, there was also an increase in the amount selling for less than £8,000/acre.

NEARLY 40% OF ARABLE SOILS ACROSS ENGLAND AND WALES ARE “DEGRADED,” reports Farming UK.  A newly-developed soil health index, developed by British scientists, shows for the first time that 38% of arable soils in England and Wales are degraded, compared to less than 7% of grassland and woodland soils.  The ratings are believed to be largely independent of climate, soil type and amount of vegetation growing on it, thereby providing a “true indication” of the status of the soil.   farminguk.com/news/soil-survey-shows-40-of-arable-soils-degraded-_56071.html

VEGETABLE GROWERS AS GREEN & CO IN HEREFORDSHIRE HAVE ORDERED CROP-PICKERS TO SELF-ISOLATE, reports the BBC, Telegraph and many others.  Initially 74 workers tested positive, but the number of cases has now risen to 93.  Two groups of workers who arrived in the UK via bus and plane – including some who work at the farm – are being traced as a precaution.  The farm has now going into a highly localised lockdown, with about 200 workers in quarantine at the site’s live-in accommodation.  No cases have been identified among a further 76 workers on the flight who went on to other farms in England.  PHE advises that it is very unlikely that Covid-19 can be transmitted through food or packaging, so shoppers can remain confident buying British fruit and veg.  The farm grows beans and broccoli.  Although some workers had symptoms, most were asymptomatic and the positive results of 73 people came as a surprise.


RABI, Addington Fund, FCN, Forage Aid and RSABI, supported by the Prince’s Countryside Fund, have launched the Farming Help initiative.  The initiative is also being launched with the NFYFC, the NFU and the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust. 
FARMING HELP recognises that this will be an anxious time for many farmers and farming families and periods of poor health or self-isolation may result in temporary practical difficulties on farm.  For help drafting a contingency plan, for practical local help with livestock, shopping etc, or to discuss your concerns and anxieties,

Contact 03000 111 999 or visit www.farminghelp.co.uk

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