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BY MICHAEL BARKER

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Celebrating Kentish fruit

The Kent Show celebrated its 90th birthday last month, and as Pat Crawford reports, the county’s fruit was the main attraction

Celebrating Kentish fruit

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The 90th anniversary of the Kent County Show took place on 5-7 July, with three days of sunshine helping to swell visitor numbers to 78,000, some 4,000 more than the year before.

The expression ‘Visit Kent and you’re never far from an orchard’ appears in so many places. The county is rightly lauded for fruit production, so it’s no surprise that the National Cherry and Soft Fruit Show (NCSFS) – an important part of the Kent Show – attracted a lot of entries. The county’s growers featured high in the NCSFS prize list, with major award winners including Brian Piper Partnership, BR Brooks & Son, Clock House Farms, Elverton Farms, Hugh Lowe Farms, AC Hulme & Sons, FW Mansfield & Son, Mount Ephraim Farms, J Myatt and Company, TG Redsell and Sunrise Fruits.

Believed to be the only show of its type in the world, the NCSFS is held in a very large marquee close to the centre of the Kent showground and enables some of the country’s best growers to show the public what they do. Every year all the fruit on display is sold to visitors and it’s not unusual for some people to make a point of visiting the NCSFS marquee year on year – always leaving laden with wonderful examples of what the industry offers.  

The organisers of the NCSFS and all the growers taking part are well aware of the importance of educating the public and demonstrating the excellence of UK-grown produce.  A screened commentary, photographs and live exhibits also go a long way towards informing and enthralling visitors.

For several years the Institute of Directors has held a breakfast event at the Kent Show to give the county’s business community the opportunity to meet and discuss some of the issues affecting the sector. The innovative tagline devised this year – ‘Rural Business and Food – and what we can do about it’ – was especially fitting for Kent’s 90th anniversary show.  The meeting always includes a debate, which this year was entitled ‘Brexit for Breakfast’.

Chaired by the popular broadcaster and former MP Lembit Opik, the fresh produce sector was well represented on the panel by Phil Acock, chief executive of Fourayes. The family company has won the National Fruit Show’s award for ‘Bramley most suitable for long-term storage’ on five occasions.

It’s a fact that even in predominantly rural Kent, a lot of the county’s business sector completely fail to understand the significance of agriculture and horticulture. The fact that the IoD elected to give farming and food a major platform at this year’s show created opportunities to enlighten the business audience about just how important the farming industries are to the county in both economic and social terms. 

It is interesting that some of the county’s big players backed the event with sponsorship because it indicates they perceive the importance of the rural industries. One of the largest accountancy firms in the world, MHA MacIntyre Hudson, signed up as headline sponsor. 

The show was also attended by HRH The Duke of Kent, who has been patron of the Kent County Agricultural Society since 1975.

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