One of the hardest things I have ever done was tell the trustees of the National Fruit Show that I was standing down, that I had finally found something that started to surpass the single-minded passion I had for ensuring the show would succeed.

I have taken a risk; after 30 years working in retail, farming, and food, it looked like suddenly I was exiting stage left for a whole new world. But no, life is still full of wonderful meetings with generous, socially conscious farmers who are sharing their non-retail grade, outstanding British produce with those who genuinely cannot afford to eat right now. Even in the face of diminishing margins, there are still those who recognise that helping others is a good thing to do.

And the fruit show, well the incredible 90-year-old institution is in safe hands. I opened an extremely exciting email today; there are only six stands left to sell, and we are only in July. Both halls are filled, as you would expect from the National Fruit Show, packed with the latest technology, advice, varieties and every support service a business could possibly want.

We have NFU President Minette Batters, on her farewell tour, opening the show and giving the keynote address on the conference stage, concluding the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers, conference session which will see John Gray, the managing director of Angus Soft Fruit, present his Fruiterers-sponsored Nuffield Scholarship report. 

John, so highly regarded in the soft fruit industry, will undoubtedly have some pithy observations from his report Fresh produce supply chain excellence – growing our share of the value chain. Joining John and Minette on stage will be the 2022/23 student prize winners who will talk about their work, as well as two recipients of research grants from the company. 

The cider and juice competitions are open to entrants right now, with the results being shared alongside those of the soft and top fruit competitions. The new chair of judges, Hutchinson’s Jonathan Blackman, will be joined by BBC’s Nigel Barden looking after the cider and Dr David Pennel chairing the judges for juice. 

Top fruit classes look set to be hotly contested. Warm weather with some rain at a critical point in the growing season means that colour, flavour and size forecasts are good, which always leads to an exciting judging day (this year on 31 October).

Education has been an enormous focus of the fruit show team over the past decade. The indefatigable Sam Smith and her high energy team have engaged with more than 10,000 children in the past 12 months, representing the industry and enthusing everyone they speak to about the incredible benefits of eating British grown fruit. 

Hundreds of primary schools have been visited over the years, each receiving a great dose of enthusiasm about the industry, creating consumers of our fruit and inspiring young people about careers in fruit. 

Building on our meeting with the Duchess of Edinburgh last year, and new for this year, the show is delighted to be hosting a CEIAG (Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance) and teacher encounter event in collaboration with The Kent and Medway Careers hub. This will be an opportunity for the industry to network with teachers and careers advisors to help them discover pathways into the industry and businesses.

This great institution, founded in Kent and representing all that is great about British fruit, turns 90 with style at this year’s show on 1 and 2 November.

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