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The Sussex farm which supplies fruit to Royal garden parties

PUBLISHED: 14:53 14 August 2017 | UPDATED: 14:53 14 August 2017

Pickers Marcel Ciucuresca and Madalina Dode at Hargrove Sidlesham

Pickers Marcel Ciucuresca and Madalina Dode at Hargrove Sidlesham

Philip Traill

Visiting the farm which supplies fruit to various Royal garden parties.

They may have been farming soft fruits in Sidlesham for 18 years, but it doesn’t mean Nick and Kathy Evans have stopped experimenting with new methods. Trading as Strawberry Fox, Haygrove Sidlesham began as just six acres of land, a caravan and one glasshouse. This year as well as growing plump and juicy Centenary strawberries for customers including Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Noble Foods who supply the Royal garden parties, the farm is also trialling a new Elizabeth strawberry variety, and a Victoria blackberry which Kathy describes as being full of flavour but with a soft centre. “They’re doing well on the market,” she says. “It’s like a different creature to the bramble berry.” Between May and July more than 100 workers from all over the world – but mostly Bulgaria and Romania – come to the farm’s nine sites to help pick in excess of 400 tons of fruit a year including strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. This month’s image shows Marcel Ciucuresca and Madalina Dode working in one of the glasshouses where the strawberries are kept above the ground to make them easier to collect and protect the plants from pests. Kathy believes there are a lot of misconceptions about glasshouse and polytunnel growing. “If you want to grow for supermarkets in the UK the fruit has to be covered,” she says. “Having glasshouses reduces the need for pesticides – we use an integrated pest management system which keeps the insects we don’t want out, and lets the bees in. We aren’t organic, but we work in a very environmentally friendly way.” The covers mean the farm isn’t victim to changes in the weather and fruit can be picked in rain or shine. Kathy admits birds do still find their way in though and have been found setting up nests among the strawberry plants.

Visit www.haygrovesidlesham.com

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