Top Fruit Grower of the Year

Winner: AC Goatham & Son

Top Fruit Grower of the Year, AC Goatham & Son - image: AC Goatham & Son
Top Fruit Grower of the Year, AC Goatham & Son - image: AC Goatham & Son

In every industry there are companies that stand out, and AC Goatham & Son is one of them. But last year, the top- and stone-fruit grower, which operates from 11 sites in Kent, found a way to set itself apart even further. The family firm won planning approval for a new packhouse with chilled dispatch and 10 storage units, due to start on site shortly.

Such heavy investment is essential for a company that employs 500 seasonal staff and keeps bumping up production and growing new varieties. Last year, the business spent more than £2m on land, storage and kit, while this year£7m is being set aside for more improvements, including the packhouse-cum-storage block - ice-cold, gleaming and ready for business in 2013.

Boosting capacity is not an option but a must for a company keen to expand. Working with grower partners on the early-cropping Zari apple, for example, has paid off well enough to prompt AC Goatham & Son to let rip. Nearly 30,000 trees will go into the ground to offer a high-quality rival to Discovery and Worcester varieties.

Total production for 2011 was 26,000 bins of fruit grown on 321ha and a further 40,000 bins from partner growers, which the company stores and packs. Profits on this produce are expected to rise by more than five per cent this year. But making money from the land has its responsibilities - and two AC Goatham & Son farms recently signed up to the Entry Level Stewardship scheme.

Integrated pest management and pesticide minimisation practices have become standard across the entire business, but good environmental practices benefit more than bees and birds. Several irrigation lakes flow with clean water full of fish species including trout, meaning AC Goatham & Son stood out this year not only in the growing community but with local angling clubs.

Highly Commended

Newmafruit Farms

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