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Orchard has big plans to save save the conference pears

A Kent-based fruit company has completed the first phase of planting a new pear orchard near Canterbury. A.C. Goatham & Son says the site at Elmstone, near Preston, is the largest to be planted in more than 40 years, in a direct bid to compete with European growers and importers. When complete the site will include as many as 63,000 trees, which will each grow up to 20kg of conference pears a year. The firm will use the latest technology to plant the remaining 20,000 trees this winter. The business has carried out growing trials of the crop over the past three years. Ross Goatham, partner at A.C. Goatham & Son, said:

“We growers have to be more competitive and innovative if we are looking to compete directly with European growers, before the market for English-grown pears disappears completely. While European growers may have the climate on their side, we are now looking to use the latest growing technology to compete more equally with them. We felt if we didn’t do something now to try to stop the decline in British conference pear growth in the UK, they may disappear from our supermarket shelves altogether. This new orchard will see meaningful cropping after three years in 2018, so the old adage about planting pears for heirs will no longer ring true.”

The firm have also announced the creation of 500 new jobs across their network of orchards in Kent this summer. They want 350 people to work from September to November, and 55 packhouse workers to look after fruit when it goes into gant cold stores at Flanders Farm at Hoo; near Rochester. There will also be up to 100 jobs for thinners from June to August to remove some crops from trees to allow others to grow. HR manager Gayle Goatham said:

“The timing of the work is dictated by the harvest season, but these are all full-time positions for a fixed period and will be shiftwork. We look for people with a variety of skills and experience and often take people on for a number of months who can move to different roles as the season progresses.”

The business has recently hired five full-time staff, including two farm apprentices — Esther Harvey, from Highain, and Nathan Carter, from Hoo. Miss Harvey said:

“I am really enjoying my work and I love the variety and also not being stuck indoors all day. I like to be outside and I feel this is helping me to learn a real variety of skills, which will be essential for my future career in the industry. Working in the horticultural sector is really interesting and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a job to consider it.”

Herne Bay Gazette, April 9th 2015

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