Breaking with the tradition of only looking at fruit, we enjoyed a wonderful afternoon at Chandler and Dunn’s farms at Perry Farm (about 83 hectares) and Lower Goldstone. The business farms a total of 610 hectares covering the two farms that are about three miles apart. The foundations of the Chandler and Dunn farming business go back to 1809 when a Peter Chandler bought 26 acres at Goldstone and through successive generations the family gradually grew their land holding and the scope of the business. The Dunn family formed a partnership with the Chandlers in 1922, and their first cattle were bought in 1939, establishing a pedigree Sussex herd line that continues today alongside their fruit and arable operations.

There is more than 207 years of farming knowledge and experience in the Chandler and Dunn business with a good number of the latest generation involved in the business. We began our introduction to the partnership operation with a welcome from Ian Chandler who manages Perry Farm ably assisted by Marden Fruit Show Society junior vice chairman Charlie Dunn (who is also the chair of the Under 40s Fruit Growers Association). The arable part of the business is managed by Paul Dunn, the livestock run by Roger Dunn with Clive Chandler caring for Lower Goldstone fruit farm.

Chandler and Dunn installed one of the first coldstores at Lower Goldstone. It was filled with Bramleys the first year doubling their money (the bushels went in at 1 shilling and came out worth 9 shillings) which enabled the building of a second store! Perry grows a diverse range of varieties these days: 5.59 hectares of Braeburn, 3.05 hectares of Bramley, 24.47 hectares of Cox, 4.8 hectares of Red Windsor, 2.47 hectares of Egremont Russet, 14.77 hectares of Gala, 5.07 hectares of Jazz, 5.60 hectares of Smitten, pollinators account for 4.57 hectares, Concorde Pears on 2.0 hectares and 4.88 hectares of Conference Pears to be precise. There are several pruning techniques being trialled, not least the late, post blossom pruning of Braeburn to help with growth control. Perry has enviable quality soils, capable of growing anything including big trees.

After our walk around the fruit farm we moved to Goldstone and transferred onto a tractor and trailer, a trial run for the Open Farm Sunday event on the 5 June. Driven by Paul Dunn (Charlie’s father) we travelled down narrow farm lanes to visit the beef cattle where Roger Dunn, who manages the beef unit and rears lamb as well, explained the process of rearing cattle for meat and his passion for managing their pedigree Sussex herd which included meeting some of the new Wagu x Sussex calves destined for a new premium beef line.

A very beneficial partnership has also been formed with their local brewery with the calves fed on the spent grains from the brewing process. Wagu are fed a rich diet in Japan which includes a daily beer ration. Roger has stopped short of including the daily massage from the Japanese production regime but the calves seemed happy with their lot without it. Next stop was the arable operation, which today grows a range of crops including wheat, barley, peas, beans, oilseed rape, linseed and potatoes on tile drained land on the Stour marshes.

Undoubtedly the diversity of their business gives Chandler and Dunn stability across several markets and it was a pleasure to be given such insight into the structure and successes of their business.