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Another new orchard

 

By the 5th of April we had completed the planting of another 4 hectares of new Bramley apple trees.  Ground conditions were just perfect and we planted 3,000 new trees in under 2 weeks.  We obtained top quality trees from our supplier in the Netherlands, and held them in cold storage in their dormant state until the day of planting.  With a dose of slow-release fertilizer and a weed-free environment, the trees will quickly grow as the season develops.  The next step will be a heavy mulch of organic compost to retain moisture and improve the soil. In the picture is team leader Terry Catt, with Vladimir, Yusuf, Arkadijs and Cristina. 

 

 
New tractors & sprayers for 2019

 

The very warm weather in February has started bud break in most orchards, which means that protective sprays against scab will need to begin soon.  We have invested in two new 110 horsepower tractors with the latest pressurised cabs, and three new Kuhn spraying machines for the 2019 season.  Pictured is Robert at the Haynes local depot, with sprayer operators Carol, Mike and Jeff taking delivery of the new machines at the beginning of March.  We hope for greater reliability, better operator comfort, and more optimised placement of the spray chemicals within the target area.  Each tractor cab has an RDS Spraymaster computer for fingertip control and accurate record-keeping for our Red Tractor Farm Assurance scheme.

 

 
Cold Store Upgrade

 

 Before After 

 

In December we upgraded one of our cold stores to a modern, sliding door design.  Built in 1982, this block of four stores did not seal properly and as a result was incapable of long-term storage for our apples.  WD Hobden Ltd. have built and fitted the latest gas-tight door which brings our storage capacity up again and allows us to store Bramley apples until June of the next year after harvest.

 
More New Orchards

 

 

Following a record-breaking harvest we have started work on the 2019 planting programme, a further 3.6 hectares of Bramleys on M26 rootstock.  The wooden stakes have to be driven into the ground to provide secure support for the new trees.  The next step is to apply Roundup weedkiller in the planting zone to give the trees a clean start.  A team of 4 workers starts in January, and their job includes planting the 3,000 new trees during the Winter dormant period.  In the meantime, trees are being ordered for our 2020 and 2021 plantings.

 
Focus on quality

August is proving one of our busiest starts to harvest ever, with pickers arriving early and going straight to work.  Our quality control team is seen here checking the fruit in the bins, ensuring that we meet the strict specifications of our new season orders.

The recent rainfall has made the fruit put on plenty of size, and picking will be up to full speed after the August Bank Holiday.

 
Harvest 2018 starts early

 

 

The Bramley apple harvest has begun, at least one week earlier than normal.  Apples in storage from last year have all but run out, so there is strong demand from all our customers for some top quality new season produce.  Pictured is our picking team at work in young Bramley trees on 8th August, where size is good despite the prolonged dry spell.  Other trees have a heavy crop but need more time to achieve optimum size.  Our pear crop looks very promising too, and our customers are anticipating exceptionally sweet and juicy fruit when we start harvesting in September.  We have purchased another 1,000 new bins to cope with a big harvest.

 
New staff members

 

 

In July we welcomed Mike and Tracy Wilshire to our farm team.  Mike is a qualified spray operator and has worked with wife Tracy on a large tree nursery in Kent.  They now live at Warren Farm and bring our team up to full strength, ready for the increased workload of all the new plantings,

 
New Bin Barn Completed

 

 Robert Mitchell Farms - Bin Barn Aerial PhotoRobert Mitchell Farms - Bin Barn Handover Photo

 

Our new bin barn was finally completed on 27th June and handed over by Robert Kendall of Wealden AM.  The disturbed ground behind the barn has been levelled and power harrowed, ready for the next new Bramley orchard to be marked out and staked after harvest.

The aerial photograph, taken with a drone, shows the extensive plantings of new orchards at the North end of the farm.  The barn will hold enough bins to service all the production from these new orchards in a few years' time.

 
Construction of New Barn

 

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On 14th March we began our big project for 2018, a new barn for storage of empty bins.  The building will be capable of holding over 3,000 empty bins in dry, secure conditions during the Winter months.  The life of our bins will be extended and the bins will then be stored in the centre of our newly planted production at the North end of the farm.  The main contractor for the job is Wealden AM and they aim to have completed it by the end of May.  All the steelwork is produced in the UK and is galvanised for longer life.

 
New Orchard Update

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Having got all our new trees planted, they needed water as the dry weather continued throughout May.  Using water bowsers with powerful pumps, Terry and Jack watered every tree twice, then a thick layer of compost was spread around the trees to maintain moist conditions and smother the weeds. We used 278 tonnes of compost, supplied by John Bourne of Newenden and spread by Charles Moon Contracting in just three days.  All the trees have established well and are growing nicely. They will not be allowed to crop in their first year so that all their energy goes into growing the new branches.

 
Tractor Run 2017

tractor run 2017tractor run flier

 

On 23rd April we were pleased to be part of the route for the Broad family annual Tractor Run.  Philip Broad, who organised the event, lead the convoy in his Ford Tractor (pictured left) and was followed by a wonderful assortment of vintage tractors on a 12-mile route around the Kent countryside.  The run finished at Mote Farm, Ivy Hatch with a barbeque and presentation about Demelza House, for which £1,265 was raised from those taking part.  PP Broad Contracting does all the heavy cultivations on our farm, using large, modern machinery.

 
New Faces on the Farm

ray longley

 

In March we said goodbye to Ray Longley (left),

who after 30 years on our farm has moved to

another fruit farm in East Kent.  Ray was a highly

skilled tree pruner, one of our sprayer drivers and

did all the store loading and fruit dispatch on the

yard.  We wish him good luck and will miss his

all-round skill set and sense of humour!

 

 

   jackbarry

Ray's replacement is Jack Underdown (left), who joins us from Chapel Down vineyards in Kent.  Jack is an experienced sprayer driver and forklift operator, and takes on a challenging and varied new role on our farm.  Barry Kneller (right) joined us full-time in March as our mechanic and tractor driver. He recently passed his NPTC hedgecutter test, so now becomes our hedgecutter operator following David's retirement. We will now bring forward our plans for a brand new farm workshop to fully utilise Barry's skills and qualifications.  Welcome to Jack and Barry, we hope you will be happy in our team!

 

 

 
2017 Planting Complete

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saddlebacks-planting

 

The dry weather in March provided the perfect conditions for planting our new Bramley orchard, part of a 3-year replanting scheme at the North end of the farm.  When complete, there will be another 12 hectares of Bramleys in production, adding about 600 tonnes to our annual cropping in the next 5 years. The photo shows Stanislav, Saulius, Sarunas and Graham with team leader Terry Catt bringing his valuable expertise to get a perfect job done. All holes are hand-dug; slow release fertilizer is added to every planting hole; and a good covering of compost will be applied in the next few weeks. The trees came from a professional nursery in the Netherlands; they are now busy making the trees for 2018 and 2019.

 
Winter pruning moving on well

 

 

As we approach mid-March, we have good progress to report with the tree pruning.  The weather has been colder than normal, but fairly dry so we have lost very few days to bad weather.  The pear team is within 2 days of finishing (pictured left, Stanislav; Carol; Saulius and Sarunas) and the apple team is now in the South end of the farm, heading for the last few orchards (pictured right, Rob; Ray; Cristina; Graham and Jeff).  Fruit bud is plentiful and the trees are looking good.  The pear team will turn their attention to planting the new Bramley apple orchard as soon as the soil dries up sufficiently, so the trees will go into warmer soil and establish quickly.

 
Haynes Sales Team Visit

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In February we were pleased to host a visit from the entire sales team from Haynes Agricultural Ltd.  We lined up most of our tractors and equipment to give them a feel for the type of machinery required on today's fruit farms. and gave them an explanation of the growing cycle and cultural practices on our farm.  Carol Penny can be seen demonstrating the use of powered pruners on established pear trees, and Robert can be seen discussing the very tight clearances in the pear orchards, justifying the purchase of our latest T4.95 Narrow tractor for spraying duties.  Other machines on demonstration included our Carraro V70 on pulverising duties, and another New Holland compact tractor with herbicide sprayer working in 2-row bed systems.  The visit was organised by Jeremy Cloude, the Haynes Fruit & Vineyard Machinery Specialist.

 
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