Meet some of the UK farmers who grow our berries
Lochy and Debbie Porter own East Seaton Farm situated by Arbroath, Angus on the East Coast of Scotland. East Seaton first produced soft fruit in 1991 and since then, production has expanded and continues to do so. New systems and plant varieties have been incorporated to ensure continuous production of high quality fruit for 6 months of the year.
The farm comprises 400 acres of grade 2 sandy silt loam soil on which strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries are grown along with barley and potatoes. New berry varieties that are bred and developed as part of Angus Soft Fruits breeding programme are trialled at East Seaton before full commercial production. As a producer of the finest quality fruit, Lochy Porter supplies the major UK supermarkets and premier food service outlets and employs over 1,000 people in the height of the berry season.
Harry Hall runs family business Hall Hunter Partnership with his parents Mark and Mary. It was formed in May 1966 when Mark and Mary married, and bought Heathlands Farm near Wokingham, Berkshire together with Mark’s mother.
The farm has grown from just two acres of strawberries in 1970 to over 1100 acres today, consisting of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. Hall Hunter now employ over 2,300 people at the height of the season to help pick the berries, each of which has to be harvested by hand to ensure the highest quality product reaches consumers.
Ross and Murray Mitchell are a father and son team based near Laurencekirk, East Scotland. Castleton Fruit Farm is the most northerly blueberry farm in the world – on the same latitude as the Gulf of Alaska!
Long daylight hours and a cool Scottish summer providing the perfect growing conditions for delicious, late-season strawberries. The cool climate allows the fruit to ripen slowly, giving the plants time to put down good root systems and enhancing the sweetness of the fruit.
Anthony runs AJ & CI Snell farm with his wife Christine, with three generations of farming experience in the family.
With over 450 acres of land at their Herefordshire farm, they produce an impressive 950 tonnes of strawberries, raspberries and blackberries, and they’re still growing! Anthony and Christine have recently been awarded LEAF Demonstration Farm Status due to their Integrated Farm Management
Established in Ledbury, Herefordshire in 1958, Withers Farm is a family run fruit farm owned by George Leeds, that supplies a host of major supermarkets with quality strawberries, blueberries and kiwi-berries.
Allen Leeds began Withers Farm back in 1958 with a smallholding of 18 acres. He began growing a few blackcurrants and apples then, after a short period of time, strawberries were added. Strawberries are now their biggest crop, covering almost 130 acres Withers Farm has become one of the largest and most modern farms in the UK with a third generation of the family; George’s sons Richard and Nicholas, now a vital part of the ever-growing business.
In 2018 the purchase of Monkton Farm was completed, the business now farms over 700 acres.
Ilja and his wife Natasha lead the strawberry dream team at Berries Direct Farming in Norfolk. Alongside their team at Hempnall, Ilja also manages Berries Direct site at Martham near Great Yarmouth.
They produce over 400 tonnes of British strawberries every year. Bringing passion and insight into every berry they produce with over 14 years’ experience in growing fresh strawberries in the heart of Norfolk. With a dedicated team, focusing on producing quality berries every season.
Ilja is passionate about developing the farming strategy to enable sister company Soloberry to supply berries to boost the nation’s health and to continue to produce berries that they know their consumers love.
Peter Vinson’s passion is strawberry breeding. His family have been growing strawberries in Kent for more than 150 years, and Peter set out to build on this by introducing a bespoke breeding programme to create new varieties that continue to produce fruit month after month, which has helped to extend the British strawberry season.
Described as ‘the Messi of strawberries’, Peter’s depth of expertise is unrivalled – his experience as both a grower and breeder give him an understanding of what is required both from consumers and those who grow the fruit for them.
John owns and runs Decoy Farm in Rochester, Kent, which also has a converted barn that doubles as a set of charming cottages! Lucky visitors will even get a glimpse of local barn owls, buzzards, egrets and much more abundant wildlife.
John currently grows 85 acres of strawberries, blackberries and raspberries along with other fruit, and the farm is steadily growing.
Jon and Marion Regan’s family farm, Hugh Lowe Farms is based in Kent, The Garden of England. The farm was established over 120 years ago when Marion’s great-grandfather planted his first crop of strawberries to supply the family stand at the old Covent Garden market.
Today, Hugh Lowe Farms specialise in soft fruit producing 2,500 tonnes of strawberries, 300 tonnes of raspberries and blackberries. All crops are covered and recently the farm have invested in state of the art glasshouse production growing premium late season blackberries and raspberries.
Looking after the landscape and biodiversity means there is a balance between soft fruit under tunnels, arable fields resting in between soft fruit crops, and land managed for wildlife. Hugh Lowe Farms have a Whole Farm Environmental Plan, encompassing conservation, waste management, water management, recycling, energy efficiency and crop protection policies.
Fruit farming runs through the veins of the Chambers family, who have successfully grown fruit in Kent for a number of generations. Kent’s mixture of chalk, sand and clay soils, together with a drier climate than the rest of the UK, combine to offer the optimum horticulture conditions -hence the ‘Garden of England’ reference which Kent has enjoyed for over 400 years.
The current business was set up by WB Chambers in 1952. Third generation owner and present managing director Tim Chambers took over the reins of running the family’s farms in 1990, focusing on berry, currant and stone fruit production.
Chambers is the largest independent cane fruit grower in the UK, supplying quality fruit directly from the farm to many of the country’s major multiples.
The company grows an extensive range of berries, currants and stone fruit and is especially recognized as market leaders in the year-round supply of quality raspberries and blackberries. Chambers is also a leading player in the supply of blackcurrants, redcurrants, cherries, gooseberries, strawberries, blueberries and rhubarb. The business propagates 1.5 million plants a year on a growing area spanning 400 hectares (1,000 acres) across 14 locations in mid and north Kent as well as at overseas farms located in Spain, Poland, Peru and Bulgaria. In addition, Chambers has established a network of partner growers spanning 17 countries.
In March 2019 as part of the company’s ongoing commitment to innovation and future proofing, Chambers launched The Fruitery. The moves signals a first in the UK in terms of Chambers representing the only specialist fruit grower to have invested in its own prepared fruit facility. The Fruitery provides the opportunity for Chambers to supply a retailer own label product enabling foodservice and major multiples to compete in the growing take home and on-the-go prepared markets, meeting the growing customer demand for a berry medley product that comprises the same high-quality berries direct from the grower and supplied via a shortened supply chain. The Fruitery range comprises a four and five Berry Medley in 160g, 220g and 240g variants; an 80g Blueberry snack pot; a Strawberry, Apple and Grape Medley in 130g and 160g variants; a Strawberry & Apple Medley in 130g and 160g variants; a Strawberry and Grape Medley in 130g and 160g variants. In addition, there is the option of a Catering pack (600g, 1kg and 1.5kg) in a variety of medley choices.