Friday 23rd September 2022
As a family farm we think it’s important to support other British family farms as much as possible. One of the ways we do this is to buy their produce and use it to make our yogurt.
The organic blackcurrants we’re using to make the blackcurrant pot in our Fruity Favourites come from Anthony and Christine Snell’s family farm in Herefordshire, where they’ve have been farming for 20 years. We had a chat with Anthony to find out a little more about his farm, his fabulous blackcurrants, and what he loves most about his job…
Herefordshire is absolutely ideal for fruit production.
We’ve got very good soil and just the right climate which helps us grow all sorts of soft fruits, including strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries – as well as blackcurrants.
We start harvesting the fruit at about 5am every day.
The cool early morning temperatures help to preserve the quality of the fruit. Those first few hours of the day in the summer are always the nicest; the birds are singing, there’s dew on the ground and the phone hasn’t started to ring. After that it all becomes hard work!
However, during the day of harvesting (good weather only!) we can produce between 10 and 30 tonnes per machine depending on the crop yields, with a team of staff inspecting the IQF berries which are picked in trays. They are then blast frozen before strigging (removing the stalks), size grading and being put through the metal detector.
We’re a bit like the pea industry – we have to move quickly to preserve the quality of our crops.
Before we pick our blackcurrants, we test their ripeness by measuring their sugar and acidity levels using a method called the Brix test. When they’re just right, we harvest them and aim to get them from the fields to our on-site pack house within two hours.
My first job of the day is to inspect all the fields, decide which crops to harvest and where to send them.
After that, I am a bit desk-bound for a lot of the morning, but in the afternoon I go out for a walk around the fields, checking and tasting the crops. It really clears my head after hours in the office and you get a fantastic fragrance from the fruit later in the day.
Organic crops are harder to grow than non-organic ones.
Dealing with pests is more difficult, you have to hand-weed everything and you don’t get such high yields. But the feeling that you’re working in harmony with nature is very satisfying. The most crucial thing is to take good care of the soil – if we look after it, it’ll look after us.
“It is hard work growing and managing Organic Blackcurrant production, but very sustainable and a pleasure to produce an exclusive Berry that is very good for everyone’s health.”
Coping with the weather is the most difficult aspect of my job.
Climate change is upon us and we are getting longer periods of more challenging weather to contend with. There are so many things that can go wrong in fruit farming and we worry a lot about getting a good crop when the weather conditions aren’t right, but we have to try and work with it. It’s Important to have winter chill, adequate soil moisture, and a nice sunny summer!
Blackcurrants have a great British heritage.
They’ve been grown in the British Isles for centuries. I’m vice-president of the International Blackcurrant Association, which brings together growers from all over the world, but the best climate for them is here in the UK. Blackcurrants really are a superfood; they’re packed with vitamin C and antioxidants. Knowing we’re producing something so healthy and nutritious gives me a great feeling.
Find out more about the other Yeo Valley products that use organic goodness, at Things We Make.