9th July 2021


Rural Rap

HUGH LOWE FARMS, THE STRAWBERRY GROWERS FOR WIMBLEDON, HAVE REVEALED HOW MANY WERE SENT TO THIS YEAR’S TOURNAMENT, reports the Kent Messenger.  Hugh Lowe Farms, which is based in Mereworth, estimate that around 22 tonnes of strawberries have been sent up to the All England Club.  That is the equivalent of about two double decker buses.  Due to Covid restrictions, this is probably about two thirds of a normal year.  Last year an east London food bank was offered the surplus strawberries when the pandemic resulted in a cancelled tournament, but this year excess fruit has not been such an issue.

FLY TIPPERS HAVE BEEN CAUGHT IN THE ACT AFTER FARMERS TOOK MATTERS INTO THEIR OWN HANDS, reports the Kent Messenger. The suspects were snared in woods at Blue Bell Hill near Chatham and on farmland at Havel House Farm near Meopham and are now being investigated by authorities.  Steve Jones, a farmer on Blue Bell Hill, blocked the perpetrators with a car and was joined by his sons in their tract and forklift after getting fed up with repeated incidents of fly-tipping. Meanwhile a resident caught another fly-tipper in action at a known hotspot in woods nearby.  Police are now investigating.

A FARMER WHO HAD HIS LIVELIHOOD DESTROYED BY A DEVASTATING GRASS FIRE IS URGING PEOPLE TO BE CAREFUL THIS SUMMER, reports Kent Online.  Five fire engines and two multi-terrain vehicles were sent to Geoffrey Philpott’s farm in Broadstairs last August, where a blaze was spreading rapidly towards a huge area of land – including a field full of horses.  Following the terrifying ordeal, he is now backing a campaign run by the fire service aimed at reducing accidental grass fires.  Last year fire crews in Kent alone responded to 617 accidental grass fires.

NIAB-EMR HOPES THE NEW MALLING ACE STRAWBERRY COULD DELIVER A BOOST TO THE SOFT FRUIT INDUSTRY, reports the Kent Messenger.  Scientists have served up what they believe to be a game-changer strawberry.  The Malling Ace variety provides fruit throughout the year while retaining the quality of the “best June strawberries.”  First selected in 2015 and trialled in 2017 in East Malling, after successful commercial trials in 2019, the variety has been fast-tracked to get it to market.  The variety is an ever-bearer which can crop consistently from May to September and may even offer potential opportunities for vertical or urban farming.

A STAR-STUDDED FEATURE-LENGTH DOCUMENTARY ABOUT THE STORY OF CHAMPAGNE IS TO PREMIERE AT THE CANNES FILM FESTIVAL TODAY, reports the Kent Messenger.  The stellar ensemble cast in Sparkling: The Story of Champagne examines whether the English were, in fact, first to create the fizz before the French.  Kent locations where filming took place include Hush Heath in Staplehurst, Squerryes Court in Westerham, Taittinger’s Domaine Evremond outside Chilham, Churchill’s home of Chartwell and Reculver Towers.

AC GOATHAM & SON REPORTED A 43% RISE IN APPLE SALES IN THE FIRST LOCKDOWN LAST YEAR, reports Produced in Kent.  Research by a number of organisations show how shopping and eating habits have changed over the last 18 months.  According to new research, 860,000 households bought pears for the first time during that first lockdown, further good news for Goatham’s, who grow almost half of all British conference pears.  Goatham’s is continuing its programme of new orchard planting, with 137 acres planted last winter, and 148 acres planned for this.

A NEW VERTICAL-GROWING TECHNIQUE COULD KEEP BRITISH STRAWBERRIES ON THE SHELVES FOR NINE MONTHS OF THE YEAR, reports the Kent Messenger.  The system, which is being pioneered by a fruit-grower in West Sussex, uses 50% less water and has a 90% lower carbon footprint but has yields 5x higher than normal production methods.  Direct Produce Supplies is stacking up 1,000 tonnes of strawberries and will be supplying Tesco.  The fruit is produced in vertically stacked beds under fully controlled conditions, with plants watered using a hydroponic feed instead of in the soil.

ARABLE CROP PRODUCTION USING AUTONOMOUS EQUIPMENT IS BOTH TECHNICALLY AND ECONOMICALLY FEASIBLE, reports Farming UK.  A new study uses experience from Harper Adam’s Hands Free Farm project to demonstrate that medium sized farms can produce arable crops at close to minimum per unit production cost levels.  These changes mean that the use of autonomous equipment could see greater independence for farmers, a chance for smaller farms to become cost competitive, and less need for farmers to “get big or get out” in arable production.

INDUSTRIAL HEMP COULD BE A VALUABLE TOOL FOR UK FARMING, reports Farming UK.  Five farmers, including one in Kent, are collaborating with researchers as part of an Innovative Farmers programme by the Soil Association.  Long stigmatised for being part of the cannabis family (hemp varieties are not used in narcotics), hemp does not require agro-chemicals.  Furthermore, there is growing international evidence that it can boost biodiversity, control pests, improve soils and sequester carbon.  It could also be a useful break crop alternative to OSR, which is becoming increasingly challenging to grow in the UK.  Trial grower, Camilla Hayselden-Ashby in Kent, is growing hemp for the first time on her family’s 320-acre mixed farm.  She plans to add hemp to the farm’s rotation.

A NEW NATIONWIDE POLICE UNIT HAS BEEN CREATED TO HELP FIGHT AGAINST AGRICULTURAL MACHINERY THEFT, reports Farming UK.  The Agriculture and Construction Equipment unit will be operated within Opal, the national intelligence unit focused on serious organised acquisitive crime.  The theft of equipment from farms has a significant impact on the business targeted, from the both the loss and replacement of equipment taken, as well as the cost of temporary downtime.  The cost of agricultural machinery theft can exceed £30m a year.


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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