Simon Bray, winner of this year's East Kent Fruit Society orchard of the year competition, has demonstrated to his fellow growers that they need not invest in the latest growing techniques in order to have a successful business.
Bray showed fellow EKFS members around his 39 hectare Monks Farm in Sittingbourne on August 18 (2015).
The farm also earned prizes in the competition for having the region's best Gala and best Cox orchard.
During the tour it was evident that Bray's well-kept, healthy orchards were largely down to his dedication to, and familiarity with, his crops and they land in which they grow.
Bray explained that he has chosen not to invest in the latest post-and-wire intensive planting systems and instead developed something that works best for him.
This sees his dessert apples planted at a spacing of 3m (in between rows) and 1.2m (in between trees) and to a height that is shorter than those trees that are grown using post-and-wire systems. This means he does not need to invest in picking platforms. "We are not growing a tall tree. The only picking aid we have is one step."
Bray has also developed a unique system of placing little white caps on the ends of the tree rows that point in alternate directions. He explained: "When spraying I do every fourth row, so this gives me my bearings when I go in and out of the rows."
Bray also informed his visitors that Monks Farm can suffer from diseases such as canker. "We get ruthless about pulling trees out at an early stage. Last year we hired a mini digger to pull trees out. We did not prune the trees - we just cut the canker out."
Bray also told the tour group that a team of just 16 people "has been thinning quite hard." The thinning was evidently a job well done as all of the orchards are set to have a decent crop this season. For example, his award-winning Gala orchard is set to crop around 50 tonnes per hectare, compared to last year's 38 tonnes-a-hectare harvest.
Monks Farm - The facts
Monks Farm grows for many of the main supermarkets, including Asda, Morrisons, Waitrose, Tesco and M&S. The business is part of the producer organisation Fruition, and markets its fruit through the marketer and distributor Worldwide Fruit.
It grows mainly Gala (32.5 per cent) and Cox (20 per cent) but also Bramley (16 per cent), Jazz (15 per cent), Jonagold (seven per cent) Braeburn (six per cent) and small amounts of Egremont Russet and Amelia (which is grown exclusively for Marks & Spencer).