Support your local plum growers
There is nothing like a sweet and juicy English plum or – even better – a local Kentish plum. HadLOW Carbon Community will be attending Tonbridge Farmers’ Market on Sunday 9 September to highlight the quality, flavour and lower carbon footprint of local plums.
Yet the plum and cherry orchards that give Kent its title of “Garden of England” could be in danger of being grubbed out to make way for more lucrative crops such as grain.
Many fruit farmers complain that due to the low prices offered by supermarkets and competition from overseas – Spain in particular – smaller growers who are unable to make a profit will eventually sell out to the grain barons. Grain is a more stable crop.
Hadlow farmer Peter Kedge calls it the “grain danger”. He explains: “The world grain price is at an all-time high. Many small growers have already gone over to grain crops. And once an orchard has been replaced by cereals it will be gone forever.”
Mr Kedge, who is to supply the plums to the HadLOW CARBON stall at the farmers’ market, says that there are only a handful commercial-sized plum growers left in Kent. “I don’t know of anyone who has planted a plum orchard in recent years.”
He worries for the future of fruit farming in Kent as the younger generation is put off by the poor rewards. “Farmers’ children are not coming into the industry,” he notes. “The average age of growers is 60 years.”
The unpredictable weather of the past few years has made growing plums at best marginal for Kent’s plum growers. But it is our climate, which enables fruit to ripen slowly, that gives English plums their unique balance of sweetness to acidity. By comparison, plums from Spain ripen quickly which does not allow the acidity and flavour to develop fully.
Yet some high street supermarkets continue to give more shelf space to inferior imported varieties than home-grown plums.
HadlOW CARBON Community are drawing attention to the plight of local fruit producers who are taking all of the risk in the fruit supply chain, yet receive an unfairly low proportion of the price we pay for a punnet of plums.
Growers deserve a fair return for their produce. “Every time we buy local plums we are supporting local jobs and the local economy. Kent’s fruit orchards employ far more people, in permanent jobs as well as increased numbers during harvesting, than the same acreage given over to grain.
“Despite the increased demand for local food, shoppers would have less choice and it would also be a great loss for our Kentish landscape if fruit growers decided that their orchards of plums, cherries and apples were no longer worth the effort.