2020 has been a year of firsts for everyone and this is true of our own industry which has had to adapt fast to the changed habits and needs of shoppers and retailers in the face of the pandemic.
Of course, that has meant significant alterations to the ways we meet, do business and bring our ideas and innovations to the wider attention of the whole industry, which has always been at the core of the National Fruit Show. For 87 years it has been the Show ‘for growers, by growers’ and has had their best business and farming interests at heart. So, it is in this spirit that we approach our first ‘digital’ year. Our debut where we take the Show to a fully interactive virtual stage and bring together all its well-honed elements under virtual skies.
The online event is a huge opportunity for the Show and the team have put together a full programme that will see it run as a showcase for exhibitors and sponsors alongside debate and discussion. The ‘conference’ element of the day has been divided into three distinct disciplines and the team is delighted to share that they have attracted a wealth of leading professionals to speak on their latest work. The sessions will be covering everything from policy to agronomy, to data and research.
Subtitled ‘What happens next?’ the day will give its audience some real food for thought along with some entertainment to close – much like any other National Fruit Show then.
The distinguished scientist and former founding President of the National Food Standards Agency, Lord John Krebs will open the Show and take part in its first panel discussion. Hosted by the Rural Policy Group and Chaired by Sarah Calcutt, Chair of the Marden Fruit Society, the panel will also include Teresa Wickham, the new President. Tom Bradshaw from the NFU will also speak, with Mark Lumsdon-Taylor of MHA MacIntyre Hudson and Gary Marshall, Chair of the Covent Garden Tenants Association. Questions from visitors can be posted alongside the debate as the panel is speaking and will be addressed at the end. Join us for what will be a lively discussion about a sustainable future feeding our population, and the growing and selling of fruit.
Over lunchtime the focus will turn to the technical aspects of fruit growing, including new biological control strategies, soil health and PPP updates. Each bite-size session will last for 20 minutes and conclude with a Q&A session. Speakers include Alex Radu from sponsor Agrovista on integrated pest management; Rob Saunders from Hutchinsons on their recent Helios project, and Mike Stoker from Engage Agro on soil fertility and plant health.
The afternoon sees the Show team up with the FPJ and the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers for the livery company insight session, this will showcase the latest research in top- and soft-fruit and an analysis of the produce marketplace. The specially selected speakers will also participate in a panel chaired by Laurence Olins.
The panel discussion programme sits alongside one of the most important aspects of the National Fruit Show – its famous fruit competition. At the end of the day, the winners from the top- and soft-fruit classes, along with the nut and cider classes, will be announced. The judging day will be held, appropriately, in Marden a few days before the Show. For the top-fruit competition, all the usual 20 categories are open for entries, but the judges will use adjusted criteria to allow for the restrictions imposed on them by current government advice.
To end the day, and in the true spirit of the Show, the fruit competition winners will be announced alongside a fully interactive cider-tasting hosted by leading food broadcaster Nigel Barden. The Show’s ‘Love Cider’ competition has been running once again on social media channels and Nigel will announce the winner live. We have teamed up with the Wine Tasting Club so that visitors to the virtual show will be able to buy tickets on the Eventbrite portal to the cider tasting. Those signing up will receive the winning cider and snacks in time for the reception and cider tasting event. A proportion of each £20 ticket will go to the National Fruit Show’s Education programme which aims to teach school children where their food comes from.
2020 will only be the third time that the Show has not been held face to face – during the Second World War one Show was cancelled due to bombs falling in Marden, and another was unable to proceed due to catastrophic frost damage in all the major fruit growing areas. The decision to take the Show online was made after extensive consultation with sponsors, stakeholders, and growers. With advances in virtual event technology it will be possible to deliver the depth of technical knowledge necessary for the Show to be registered for NRoSO and BASIS points.
Entry to the Virtual Show is free and available to all by visiting www.nationalfruitshow.org.uk before 22 October.