S&A Produce is on course to develop "five or six" new strawberry varieties in its five-year breeding programme, now in its third year, director of soft-fruit growing Roger Vogels revealed during Open Farm Sunday on 7 June.
"We are currently trialling year-three selections, still only with coded names," he told Grower. "This will be the first year of commercial picking. We have the flavour and the shape, but our retailer partners also want to see continuity of supply and shelf life."
He added: "We are growing double the quantities of watermelons this year in our polytunnels and that now includes Galia types. It's a commercial crop but we are still finding out how to make it work with our present growing systems."
This is the third year that the Herefordshire soft-fruit grower has participated in Open Farm Sunday. "Our visitor numbers have risen from 100 to 600 and we have laid on more events," said Vogels. "They are also interested in the packhouse. It gives people an understanding of what the business is about."
Overall, the 10th Open Farm Sunday drew around a-quarter-of-a-million visitors to nearly 400 farms, thanks to sunshine over much of the country - a rise of more than 15 per cent on last year's attendance.
Annabel Shackleton, Open Farm Sunday manager at sustainability charity LEAF (Linking Environment & Farming), said: "Open Farm Sunday enabled hundreds of thousands of people to have an amazing day in the countryside, learning about farming and the story behind their food. We're particularly delighted so many families took the time to visit farms up and down the country, many for the first time."
LEAF Survey results
A LEAF survey prior to Open Farm Sunday revealed that:
- One-in-three people (33 per cent) did not know that the UK grows apples or potatoes.
- 36 per cent were unaware that tomatoes and coriander are grown here.
- 39 per cent did not know that lettuce and cucumber are both UK crops.
- 41 per cent were unaware that we grow broccoli.
- Only nine per cent knew cherries are grown in Britain.