Sidmouth apple growers toast success of award-winning juice
PUBLISHED: 08:39 31 July 2018 | UPDATED: 08:39 31 July 2018
Everything that goes into the bottles is grown on the farm. That level of control goes a long way to explaining the award-winning success of Four Elms Fruit Farm in Sidmouth.
They have just picked up two golds and four silvers at Taste of the West for their apple juices. And, they now have two of three juices going for the Champion of Champions.
At the county show it was almost embarrassing – they picked up first, second, third and fourth place.
And juices were really just a side-line. Four Elms, near Sidmouth, is the last commercial grower of dessert fruit apples in Devon and Cornwall.
Richard Smedley, who runs the farm with his wife Sue and son Mark, said: “Juice is our trump card because we have full control over the fruit. If you have got the wrong ingredients you’re not going to make a premium product.”
Richard’s parents bought the farm in 1962. A total of 26 acres of dilapidated orchard is now 70 acres of a flourishing business.
Mark, a former Royal Marine, is taking the business into the third generation with plans to move into cider production.
Richard said: “If you were thinking of setting up now you wouldn’t do it. There are just so many things that can go wrong.
“Obviously, there’s the weather – it’s gardening with God – it can be too cold, too wet and now we are getting too dry but we’re okay at the moment.”
They have six storage buildings to keep fruit in controlled atmospheric conditions. The newest cost £60,000 to build.
Orchard trees take between two and three years to produce sellable fruit. The farm grows 16 varieties but just four dominate the market: Cox, Braeburn, Egremont Russet and Gala. They use local people to harvest the fruit, which must be handpicked.
Previously, they supplied the big supermarkets but the demands for size and colour were demoralising and the fruit travelled huge distances to centralised processing depots.
“There was no job satisfaction in it. I want the consumer to buy our fruit and say it tastes like I remember with real flavour and texture,” Richard said.
They now only supply local Waitrose supermarkets and smaller outlets. It’s a match that suits the ethos of this family business much better and the latest awards show it’s working.