Welcome to ‘OrchardWorld’s Grower Stories’ feature. In this day and age with evolving technology, climate change, industry challenges, carbon footprint, expanding eating patterns, health challenges and intolerances, it is more important than ever for people to learn about where their food comes from. So we are introducing our ‘Growers’ Stories Feature’ to help you with this. Here, we will look to share information on many of the farms we work with throughout the course of 2021, asking them questions that we feel you would like to know, starting with Boxford Suffolk Farms (BSF). You can expect to learn where our produce has been grown and selected from with interesting information from the growers themselves who live and breathe producing the best possible fruit to serve to you:
Group Farms Director, BSF (Boxford Suffolk Farms)
WHO IS BSF?
Q. Firstly, could you give us a bit of background on yourself and the orchards you manage?
A. Hello….I have been working at BSF as a Groups Farm Director since September 2005, where we are perfectly positioned to grow only the best fruit over breath taking landscapes between the Essex and Suffolk borders at Boxford. Our business was established in 1938 and being family run gives a certain vitality which shines through on most things we do as we take enormous pride in growing and supplying healthy food to our customers.
Q. How long have you been working with OrchardWorld and what do you supply to them?
A. We have been working with OrchardWorld since 1989, having a very successful relationship where the passion of fruit growing dominates from both sides. We form more of a partnership as it's essential that we work very closely as a team to ensure that only the very best fruit produced is picked and packed to reach the end customer in peak condition. Fruit growing, as you can imagine, faces many challenges, so we need everyone to be on the ball. Currently, we supply and pack lots of different varieties of top fruit (apples and pears) for OrchardWorld, as well as Rhubarb and Asparagus.
Q. Can you go into more detail about challenges you face and how you overcome them?
A. What can I say? Weather, nature and people: these are our biggest variables that we are not always fully in control of and this is what provides the complexity and ever changing nature of fruit growing. Every year is different, one year it might be a particular pest on a crop or it might be adverse weather conditions at a particular time of the season or it might be the uncertainty of labour supply, or a combination of all 3 across the 7 crops we grow. However, with OrchardWorld's help, it is the fact that we know there will be challenges that makes us so adaptable and flexible and ready to solve any problems and I guess we all get a certain adrenalin rush and satisfaction from a challenge met and solved.
Q. What is it that makes the team so passionate and love their jobs?
A. It is a very quantifiable job, outdoors, healthy and most of the staff who work for us are people persons, and to get anything done involves team work so there is a very good team morale.
Q. How long have your pickers been working for you?
A. They range between 5 and 10 years. There is a natural turnover as a lot of them start working for us whilst they are studying and then at a point after they finish their studies, their life moves on. We also have several of our permanent staff who started as pickers and have since progressed up through the business - some to senior management positions. There is and always has been space and opportunity for staff who wish to progress and build a career at BSF and OrchardWorld.
Q. What other fruit/products do you grow there?
A. Apples, Cherries, Plums, Strawberries, Raspberries and Blueberries.
Q. In your eyes what is the best variety of what you grow and why?
A. Apples - it is difficult to say as they are all at their best at a point in the season, that is the whole point about seasonality. I personally I like Early Windsor, Elstar, Gala, Fuji, Daliclass and Ariane in particular, but all of them at the right time.
Q. What technology do you have/use to help you grow your products?
A. Computers and IT are increasingly playing a part in detecting, predicting and controlling the crop growth and any pest or diseases that maybe arising. We also are heavily reliant on beneficial insects and natural compounds to control diseases and pests. We obviously mechanise as many of the jobs as we can both for worker comfort and efficiencies.
Q. What is your sustainability plan?
A. There are many areas that this would impact. Firstly, we encourage nature to help us where it can (as mentioned above they play a very important role). So, we help them with things like building ‘insect hotels’ to encourage them to stay. Any wood surplus to requirements is used as bedding for the soft fruit plants. Along with this any bi-products are sent to our AD (Anaerobic Digestion) plant and converted to energy, which is then put back into the farm, minimising waste as much as we can. Our irrigation systems controlled by computer programs allow us to feed and water the plants to their exact requirements minimising on waste. In addition, we are working with OrchardWorld to try and resolve packaging issues to ensure that they are not only environmentally friendly but also protect the product in question through the supply chains. This is extremely challenging and something that we are continuously working on.
Q. What is your USP and why does it make you stand out from your competitors?
A. I guess our USP is US (BSF and OrchardWorld). We are a great team. There are no prima donnas, and we are passionate and enjoy our job. We are flexible and adaptable and take great pleasure in knowing that the product we supply is fresh and healthy and hopefully gives enjoyment to our customers. Finally, we don’t stand still. We are always looking for ways to grow our crops better, be kinder to the environment and see what new opportunities there are.