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Paul Ward - Hartley Lands Farm

Organic Apple TreeHartley Lands Farm at Cranbrook, Kent, is an organic ‘top’ fruit farm measuring approximately 47 acres (19 hectares), of which approximately 36 acres is planted with fruit trees. It is owned by Paul and Sara Ward, who bought a home in the early nineties which included four and a half acres of mature, but neglected conference pears as well as wild flower meadows. This awakened an interest in fruit farming and in 1994 they decided the time was right for a complete career change. Currently 90% of the UK organic fruit market is supplied by imports sending the environmental benefits of these production systems abroad. They therefore purchased an existing top fruit farm locally and proceeded to convert it to organic standards. We sell their apples and pears right through the UK season from late summer through until late winter.

Conventional top fruit production relies upon the substantial use of chemicals to produce the blemish free produce that you find on supermarket shelves. To be fair most growers carefully monitor the use of these products and only use what is necessary to sustain an acceptable crop load, but organic fruit production goes much further, using no chemicals inputs and only a minimal number of approved natural products for the control of disease and pests. Examples include seaweed extracts to improve leaf and soil quality and soap solutions for the control of aphids and some other damaging insects. Soil fertility has been maintained by the use of clover grass leys, mowing and mulching with cuttings and where necessary the addition of natural composted manure and approved organic fertilisers. Conservation and bio-diversity are essential tools in organic production systems, and many areas as possible around the farm are managed exclusively for wildlife flora and fauna to sustain and encourage a bank of beneficial insects (e.g. natural predators who feed upon the crops insect pests) and protect an ever-diminishing variety of wildlife habitat.
 

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