Minette Batters, deputy president of the National Farmers Union, is officially opening this year’s National Fruit Show at 10am on Wednesday October 25 (2017) at the Kent Event Centre in Detling, Maidstone.
Minette, who grew up living and working on-farm, specialises in selling premium store cattle, but runs a diversified, mixed farming business that includes horse livery, a wedding and corporate events venue and a catering business specialising in home-grown produce. She is expected to be joined at the show by other key members of the NFU, including top fruit grower and chairman of the Horticulture and Potatoes Board Ali Capper – who is due to talk, and raise awareness of, the industry’s urgent need for a sufficient a labour supply after Brexit.
As Sarah Calcutt, chairman of The Marden Fruit Show Society (which organises the show), said: “Labour supply is one of the biggest challenges the top fruit industry is facing. Everybody has got problems but at the moment we are getting absolute silence from Defra.”
After most growing regions were affected by frost earlier this year, the weather has also been a challenge this season. Calcutt said: “The damage was patchy but coupled with very low average temperatures in the following days has meant that a full fruit set has not been achieved in certain regions. This means that fruit is larger on many farms. Sadly, there is also evidence of frost damage on the skin of many apples too.”
Fortunately, such damage has not affected the flavour of the apples, and great flavour has been predicted across all varieties. However, in response to the impact of the adverse weather on fruits this season, the chairman of the show’s judges Brian Tompsett has relaxed the rules on fruit sizes this year – allowing larger-than-normal fruit to be entered in most classes. These changes can all be found on the online entry specifications on the compete page.
Entry to the competitions is free and open to all commercial fruit growers. The closing date for apple and pear classes is Monday 9th October, cobnuts and walnuts, Friday 13th October, soft fruit, Friday 20th October and entries for the “heaviest” competitions should be sent to the Marden Fruit Show Society by Wednesday 18th October.