As many of you know, the National Fruit Show takes its exhibition fruit to a second destination a few days after the main event at Detling. For the first time ever, this year, we returned to a venue; we were back in Defra. We filled the atrium at the heart of Nobel house with British produce and the industry’s representatives and talked produce to everyone.
With the NFU, British Growers Association, AHDB and the Reading University National Fruit Collection team alongside us we were visited by the directorate in its entirety, if they couldn’t make it downstairs we delivered fruit to their offices, tea rooms and reception areas. All fruit was accompanied by the show handbook and a briefing paper, a notice encouraging everyone to take what they needed and a hand written note as to the varieties in the boxes. As I type this report I’ve been home two hours and have already had three emails from Defra staff thanking us for the fruit, our time, the information we shared and the warm invitations to come and visit farms and farming businesses.
There was an opportunity to speak to the assembled directorate, welcomed by Nick Joicey, Defra director general for strategy, international and biosecurity, in turn each organisation then gave a short presentation on their purpose, the challenges facing their members, achievements and future plans, with something like 200 Defra staff (the senior ones) in the room at the time, it had impact. I had an opportunity to speak with Sarah Church (director, food and farming at Defra), Nick Joicey, Nick Turner (who will be succeeding Kathleen Kelliher looking after Horticulture) among many others, inevitably we had to steer clear of Brexit talk but we did get to discuss in some detail labour requirements, the incredible value of Producer Organisations and how their return on investment is clearly demonstrable.
If they got that chance, then so did the other teams in the room, just think how much knowledge we shared!
As to the rest of the fruit show competition entries – well we gave some to FareShare; one pallet stayed in Kent and was shared between 17 food banks and homeless charities, the other pallet went to South Wales for sharing between Newport, Cardiff and Swansea foodbank charities. We gave two pallets to Ashford Vineyard and their partner PrepWorld who produced fruit pots for their 1000 hours voluntary work in October. This is 1000 hours of giving back to their community including producing the pots for low income families, food banks and homeless charities in the area. We sent apples to the Lord Mayor’s charity for distribution through London shelters, some to Surrey Quays City farm for their harvest festival and the best in show and tastiest winners will be presented to the new Lord Mayor of London on behalf of the Fruiterers Livery on Wednesday.
I have a very hard working team in the fruit show committee, they are amazing in their knowledge and energy and the amount of time they give for the industry as a whole they have delivered our largest show yet, running around that site for a whole week (we were all far exceeding our 10,000 steps a day) and then they turned out again, in London, representing the best of the fruit industry. The teams at AHDB, NFU, BGA and the Reading Uni fruit unit were no less sparkly, very passionate about what they do and who they represent. I must also say thank you to two sponsors too, A C Goatham & Son transported all our kit to and fro to London, and Avalon Produce who have ensured that the fruit for the Lord Mayor’s charity made it to the distribution team at Spitalfields, utterly above and beyond and greatly appreciated!