Last year I was praising Minnette Batters and now all NFU members have the chance to make her the leader of our farming union. In a world where our politics is conducted in a very public way with a great degree of scrutiny we need a spokesperson with a broad viewpoint who is calm and articulate under fire. Minnette understands the food industry beyond the farm gate, she understands public relations and work extremely well with the broader NFU team, and has my vote.

In January 2016 I wrote about the problems with interpreting the healthy eating message – recently there have been some huge steps forward in terms of big food service companies signing up to the Food Foundation’s pledge. Sodexo have increased the volume of vegetables in their seven million meals delivered per week by 10%, with other big providers of ready meals and public catering contracts set to join them; perhaps this is an important way to influence consumption and improve the palates of the population to find more veg more acceptable? January 2015 saw me writing about the opportunity of vending machines – this has seen exponential growth in the north of the country with farm gate laybys and city carparks delivering potatoes, eggs, root vegetables and milk. I’ve not seen the phenomenon reach the South East yet, have any of you looked into them?

As for the prediction bit, well the word ‘why’ runs through my notes for this month – why do we need EAP came high on the list? Why EAP, well because we need an effective crop association representing all of the industry, that’s why. Because all the time that we all contribute to a central campaign with a clear, effective PR strategy driving up consumption the whole industry will benefit. It doesn’t matter if you are a 40ha or a 400 ha grower we all need consumers to go back to picking up an apple before berries or a banana, we need apples and pears to have greater perceived value in the eyes of consumers and retailers. Apples and pears are special; a snack needing no packaging, no preparation, easily portable and full of good things, they are real food, not manufactured with stuff added or taken away to make them better than they used to be!

Then came ‘why do we need the fruit show?’, well for many of the same reasons that we need EAP to be honest – we need a central gathering point as an industry, we need to have a show that brings together all growers to learn and share, to improve our industry as a whole. We need a PR event to bring our buyers and marketers together so we can demonstrate how dynamic we are as an industry, how productive, and to showcase how amazing our product is. A successful fruit show also delivers the funding for educating the next generation of consumers – the education programme is underwritten by any excess we make from the event in October, 1000’s of children get to sample apples and pears each year through the hard work of the team and we have an opportunity to extend this, and we NEED to extend the reach of the programme. In the new year we will be launching an extensive fund-raising campaign to send the Apple World lesson plan and materials nationally. If you believe that we should be educating our future consumers about how great home grown fruit is I look forward to your call.

Happy new year everyone.