An incredible feat for any organisation, over the years the group has managed to remain true to its original aims while also progressing with the times.
Having evolved from its early years when the conference was limited to grower and research station visits in the UK, to the more comprehensive study tours around Europe in recent years, the conference has now expanded its reach to include destinations further afield.
To coincide with its anniversary, the conference was held in the southern hemisphere for the first time in 2017 and, following the success of the South Africa trip, will be returning to south of the equator again in 2019.
The all-important announcement of the 2019 trip to Chile was revealed at the group’s 50th anniversary ball, which saw 120 Under 40’s members, sponsors and supporters join together at the Hop Farm, Kent, on Saturday 25 November for dinner, dancing and a fund-raising auction.
“We shall be visiting the Rancagua area of central Chile, just a few hours south of Santiago,” said Emily Livesey, chair of the Under 40’s. “The climate changes all the way down the country so we are hoping there will be a good mix of fruit crops in the area we are visiting.”
Established in 1967, the initial objectives of the conferences were to provide the future leaders of the fruit industry with a platform to learn about the latest technical developments, find the right support to develop their careers and network with a diverse range of growers and industry suppliers.
Through visits to orchards, nurseries, pack houses and research centres, the conferences have touched on a range of topics from new variety trials, pest and disease research and cold storage innovations, with plenty of time for networking, technical presentations, discussions and debate.
Following this tradition, the 2019 conference will be packed with a variety of farm walks from blueberry growers, to stone fruit farms with plums, cherries and peaches, to vineyards growing table grapes, and not forgetting a visit to an apple orchard.
“We always want to make sure we have provided a diverse spread of visits to interest all our members, so we will be going to a mix of small and large growers and are also hoping to include pack house or processing plant,” said Emily.
With the conference always held in February, during the suitably quiet period in the UK’s fruit growing calendar, the new trips have been able to offer delegates a more rewarding experience.
“One of the benefits of going to the southern hemisphere is that we will be going during their season,” said Emily. “In the past, we’ve visited northern Europe to look at dormant trees with no leaves; we’ve had some great visits but have had to use our imagination. By going to the southern hemisphere, we will see fruit in production which helps bring it all to life.”
As well as the opportunities to see fruit and learn about alternative and innovative growing techniques, the conference now enables the Under 40’s to learn how they fit into the global markets and the wider world of fruit production.
“When we go to the southern hemisphere we are not in direct competition and everyone is always learning new things; it’s constantly knowledge sharing,” said Emily. “By understanding our place in the world, we can compare ourselves and appreciate why certain things happen when we are selling or marketing our fruit and what it is being influenced by other factors from around the world.”
This focus on globalisation delves much deeper than the original conference aims and trips to the southern hemisphere provide delegates with the chance to gain contacts from around the world while learning how to prosper in modern fruit industry job roles.
“The principal of what we do is still based around the initial aim that the Under 40’s was set up for. But in today’s organisation a lot of the members work in businesses where they are importing fruit for packing, or some members are part of import export marketing groups, and going on trips further afield is essential for helping to put ourselves in context in the wider fruit market.”
As the Under 40’s aims to keep the trips as affordable and accessible for its growers as possible the group held its inaugural fundraising event in November and is increasingly grateful to its list of sponsors.
“Now we are going so much further the costs to travel are higher so we do need to raise more money,” said Emily. “The knowledge gained and networking benefits from these trips quickly spreads back into the wider industry once we are home. From bringing new ideas back to the farm, to the members who have thrived in their careers, there are endless success stories from the group over the years.”
As well as the conference moving further afield, the Under 40’s is now hoping to spend more time talking to government and other industry organisations about the issues and challenges currently being faced by the fruit industry.
“As a body we have a very diverse mix of growers and opinions and with Brexit and other threats to our industry, such as the seasonal labour supply, one of our priorities is to think about using our voice to make a difference”.
While 2019 might seem a long way off, the Under 40’s meet sporadically at various industry shows over the year and will be hosting its usual interim trip in 2018. Although not yet confirmed, it is likely to be held in Herefordshire, including a tour of the farm where Emily has been fruit manager for the past seven years.
“2018 is still in the pipeline but we are probably going to have the interim in June. “I work at Lower Hope Fruit which grows apples, raspberries and 34 hectares of cherries. We are also hoping to go to somewhere else to look at top fruit growing.”
With no strict membership criteria, apart from needing to be under 40 years old and working in the fruit industry, anyone who wants to get involved can get in touch to receive details of events and meetings.