A small group of pear growers, sharing their experiences, their issues and talking about best practice, while standing in a highly productive new (pear) orchard. What was particularly cheering was that the range in ages the Newling orchards (and thank you Edward for the generous hosting of our pear day) was between something like 70 years old and five years old. All of them highly productive, all producing good quality and given the older orchards owed the business nothing, a part of the enterprise that was worth investing in.

Pest management was clearly high on the agenda and the simple practices that made a big difference were a hot topic – don’t mow the grass, encourage the nettles (my grandfather would be horrified looking at pear orchards now) and do everything you can to be as hospitable for the Anthrocoris you bring in to replace spray rounds. New single and twin stem orchards, irrigated and fertigated, bright and lush and packed with fruitlets, there was plenty of crop potential to choose from when it comes to thinning.

With clean skin and good shaped fruit clearly evident perhaps this will be a year to encourage investment in pears again; with the advent of the clean skinned clones of conference, some excellent new varieties like Migo to consider and newer orchard systems that deliver a crop far faster than the past, they are once again something that will be a profitable part of a business.

The National Fruit show AGM was another great example of a great team of people working hard for others. With a new format this year we were back in the beautiful surroundings of Bradbourne House. The mood of the meeting was positive – our society is holding sufficient reserves, the show continues to grow and add benefit to our industry and our education programme is thriving and ready for a leap forward under the auspices of the amazing Sam Smith and her team.

The main focus of my report was our need now to increase the levels of support for education – essentially it’s only £10/per child for our team to visit a school, let all the children try several types of English apples and pears, try fruit crisps and to have the pleasure of making apple juice (Sam has a set of suitably brutal sounding juicing machines that eat up a whole apple and fill a glass with amazing juice, they never fail to delight).

We are now commissioning blanket badges for the Scouting and Guide association. The ‘Apple World’ education programme now helps children working towards official badges provided by the movement relating to healthy eating and environmental education and can only be learnt by trying British produce! This means we have the potential for the programme and the badge to go out nationally, every single brownie, cub, scout and guide could have the opportunity to eat British top fruit and learn about our industry and how good apples and pears are for them!

We need sponsors. We need to raise a significant amount of money to make the growth of the programme happen in the next five years. We estimate this to be in the region of £85,000 on top of the sponsorship already received from Avalon Produce and AC Goatham (thank you) so it makes sense to launch this appeal in our 85th year.

Please let me know if you would like to sponsor the education programme, we are really making a difference with a hugely valuable and curriculum relevant programme, we are a registered charity, so our success depends on support.