Edibles growers win high praise

Grower of the Year awards highlight best in the industry

A top-fruit grower praised by judges for showing “real leadership” in its sector took Gold at the Grower of the Year Awards 2007, held in London last week. Kent-based Chandler & Dunn won the Top Fruit Grower of the Year category, sponsored by New Spitalfields Market, before being selected as the best of the best among the winners of the edibles categories to take Grower of the Year. Chandler & Dunn was praised for the success of its fruit-growing enterprise, which judges said “pays testament to the care given, and attention to detail shown, throughout the growing season”. This, combined with excellent harvest management skills, had enabled its orchards to achieve their full potential, they added. Judges also noted Chandler & Dunn’s contribution to helping the top-fruit industry progress through research and development. Worldwide Fruit has located one of its variety trial plantations at Chandler & Dunn. The Grower of the Year Award was sponsored by Bakkavor and the NFU. Guests at London’s Royal Lancaster Hotel watched the Soft Fruit Grower of the Year Award go to Highland Court Farm, which tends more than 80ha of black-currants, and last year came first in pharmaceutical giant GSK’s league of blackcurrant growers. The award was sponsored by Hortech Solutions and Well Pict European Tunnels. Salads Grower of the Year went to Humber VHB and Westland Nurseries for a unique partnership that saw the launch of a living version of microleaf in 2006. A key achievement has been to determine the optimum growing process. Customers include top restaurants, Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Sainsbury’s. The award sponsor was Rijk Zwaan. Vegetable Grower of the Year was awarded to Nessgro, a supplier of high-quality organic root vegetables to major retailers. By 2006, hectares under production for carrots had grown from 10 to 50 and for parsnips from five to 16. Stockbridge Technology Centre took the Bakkavor-sponsored Science into Practice Award for its research into the causes of root malformation disorder in red beet. The Stockbridge team confirmed the disorder was caused by the downy mildew pathogen, a finding which has helped in the fight against the disease. The NFU-sponsored Young Grower of the Year was won by Robert Sturrock, field and farm manager for the Balloon Tree Farmshop & Café. Judges were impressed with both the operation’s range of produce and rapid growth. The Processed Vegetable Growers’ Association scooped the Consumer Marketing Campaign of the Year honour for its “Yes Peas!” campaign, which saw pea sales increase by more than four per cent after a lengthy period of decline.

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