Specialist Fruit Grower of the Year - Winner: G&G Sinclair/West Craigie Farm

Pick-your-own fruit farms used to be widespread in Britain before inefficient picking, poor returns and even thefts drove many growers to abandon the format. But one Scottish grower is thriving on it and pushing the envelope on what can be commercially grown north of the border.

Specialist Fruit Grower of the Year - Winner: G&G Sinclair/West Craigie Farm
Specialist Fruit Grower of the Year - Winner: G&G Sinclair/West Craigie Farm

Formerly a dairy farm on the outskirts of Edinburgh, West Craigie Farm now offers a range of pick-your-own fruit with a farm shop, deli and butcher. Five years ago the farm planted a trial 1ha cherry orchard with 1,000 trees of five varieties. The trees have been cropping since 2014 with yields increasing each year.

In 2012 an apple orchard was planted with a range of lesser-known varieties on M9 rootstocks to determine whether commercial yields were possible in Scotland as well as to offer customers another pick-your-own crop.

Class 2 and unsold fruit is juiced on the farm, yielding both single-variety and blended apple juice. West Craigie Farm is now overseeing a Scottish Apple Producers group with 12 other growers, to promote and market Scottish apples, as well as sharing knowledge, buying collectively and recording what is being grown.

Among soft fruit, the farm grows a range of strawberry varieties in polytunnels on tabletop systems that combine well with pick-your-own because customers do not have to stoop and can pick in all weathers. Any surplus fruit is used to make jam, though wastage is kept low. Raspberries are grown in a similar way, with blueberries and blackberries both new additions.

Testament to the farm's soft-fruit quality came at July's National Cherry & Soft Fruit Show in Kent, where it scooped best exhibits of strawberry, raspberry and gooseberry.

SEE ALL 2017 UK GROWER AWARDS WINNERS


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