Strawberry farming in Kent


Video guide to strawberry farming in Kent

Hello, I'm Alastair Brooks and welcome to Langham Manor Farm near Faversham in Kent. I'm a strawberry grower and I've been supply Tesco for the last 25 years.

Why you should eat British strawberries

The importance of eating British strawberries is because they're close to the market we can pick them when they're fully ripe. That means that all the sugars have actually developed which gives it that lovely aroma.

The perfect strawberry

So what we're looking for for a perfect strawberry is: good colour; good shape, so that heart shape; and a nice green calyx, which indicates its freshness. This year we're launching a new variety called Solaro which will be exclusive to Tesco. They're high in folic acid, also high levels of zinc, and they're lovely and sweet, can't be better.

As the strawberry plant develops through the spring it will start to throw out two or three leaves. Once it's thrown out the third leaf, it'll start to throw out a flowering truss. This requires bees to come and pollinate. Once they've been pollinated they turn into green berries, eventually you will end up with a strawberry. That process takes about a month.

A typical field of strawberries

Here we have a typical field of strawberries. We produce a bed where we lift the soil up. It creates a really good rooting environment for the plants. Once we've made the bed we then cover it with a black polythene; it retains moisture within the soil. It also stops weeds coming through in the crop which means we don't have to use herbicides and it keeps the fruit off the soil and therefore keeps it clean.

As we start to find ripening berries in the field we can get ourselves organised with harvesting. Our philosophy here at Langham Manor Farm is right first time. We spend a lot of time training our pickers and our workforce to understand the Tesco specs in terms of quality and service level right the way through the business.

Once the product arrives at the pack house, it immediately goes into a rapid-cool store. Once it's down to ten degrees we then take it out to the packing line where it's weighed, checked, labelled up for Tesco. It then goes back into a cold store and awaits dispatch. Once it's down to temperature, it should remain at two to three degrees right the way through the supply chain which gives it the longest possible shelf life.

We believe that sustainable agriculture is the only way forward for our industry. Once we have a structure like this we can create a fairly high humidity, which reduces water use for the plant, and therefore we can grow a crop of strawberries using about half the amount of water that we would do outside.

When we finish picking this crop the tunnels will come down. The polythene lasts for about four years and after that it goes off to be recycled.

Enjoying our strawberries

When you buy strawberries from Tesco take them out of the fridge a couple of hours before you're going to eat them, give them a light wash and then they're ready to go. Most people have heard of strawberries and cream and other people use sugar. Some people even use pepper. I prefer mine as is.

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