Most of my posts focus on events in our factory, so it’s a welcome change to focus this time on the Farm.
The hotels I refer to are not the bricks and mortar kind, but rather the bug kind.
A cold and dry spell of weather earlier in the year meant that the wild bee population was suffering from severe food depletion by the end of April.
Although May brought some sunshine that helped flowers and blossom, the beneficial few days were followed by one of the wettest Mays on record, preventing bees from doing their nectar-collecting work and leading to genuine fears that many wild bee populations may not be able to build enough of the necessary food stocks to carry them through the winter months.
Time, however, is a marvellous thing and I and my farm manager, Swailey, have every hope that the situation could yet change.
Pollination is, of course, the lifeblood of our work here on the farm where we harvest around 100 acres of English Bramley apples each year.
When we think of pollination it is most often the various types of bees that spring to mind. However, bees are not the only pollinators, although we bring in beehives each year to ensure our pollination takes place successfully and comprehensively.
Amongst perhaps the more surprising pollinators are moths and butterflies, hoverflies and beetles. In fact, there are somewhere in the region of 1,500 species of pollinators in the UK alone.
Not surprising then that we have been building and installing our ‘Bug Hotels’ all over Fourayes Farm.
Using parts of old wooden pallets, beyond their useful life, combined with hollowed wooden tubes, canes, twigs and a host of other natural components found across the farm, we have constructed a host of ‘luxury’ hotels for the bugs we are happy to attract to our fabulous English Bramley apple orchards.
It’s all part of our commitment to the environment that provides work for almost 100 people locally, together with a host of seasonal workers and, of course, gives pleasure to tens of thousands of people through the products our fruit makes its way into: everything from pies to pastries, tarts, hot cross buns, cakes, muffins, desserts, a wide variety of other sweet treats and even soups.
On the subject of the environment, we have been investing heavily in close planting of trees in our orchards using an innovative post and wire support system. This delivers a host of input and output benefits but also increases our contribution to mitigating the effects of carbon emissions. Our whole business is based around a gigantic 100 acre carbon sink and we continue to work on developing new ways to increase its beneficial environmental effect.
Due to the unseasonable weather to May, and even into June, as I write we are, unusually, not yet able to accurately predict this year’s crop. However, it is a certainty that it will be lower than last year’s due to the conditions and events I’ve mentioned. It reminds me yet again of how precious our tasty English Bramley apples are and why it’s so very important that we continue to help Nature to help us.
MD of Fourayes, Vice Chairman of British Apples & Pears and Fruitician