Specialist growers of apples, pears, plums and cherries, Chrissy and Michael have been with us from the beginning. The two disasters of Foot & Mouth in the UK and 9/11 in the States resulted in Michael and Chrissie taking a last minute destination holiday in Italy. The enchanting olive groves and vineyards of Tuscany inspired them to take up fruit farming. Having sold their arable farm in North Worcestershire, they arrived at Castle Fruit Farm, Dymock as fruit-growing novices in 2002 (coincidentally neighbouring Three Choirs Vineyard – so it’s only the climate that’s missing!)
With the help of their experienced farm manager, they set off upon a steep learning curve. A huge investment was needed to modernise the orchards: from trees that were difficult to prune, slow to pick and with low yields.
They now grow a wider range of fruits on the 120 acres – many different varieties of plums, cherries, apples and pears. A succession of varieties, six of cherries, followed by seven of plums, eight of apples and three of pears mean there is always a new fruit available from July to Christmas.
Michael & Chrissie have supported the Market from the start with their fruit and their fruit juices but also sell their produce in their own seasonal Farm Shop and others. Market customers have been lucky enough to trial Chrissy’s new range of fruit produces called Bentleys Delicious. Her Plumdelicious range so far includes ketchup, chilli sauce, dessert plum syrup and a plum pop. More are in the pipeline for 2015.
Commercially they pack and supply to supermarkets, with fruit which is picked early,stored and transported. However they get great pleasure ‘in local people eating local fruit which is tree ripe’. It feels intuitively right to eat locally produced food as much as possible, and in season.
They believe that ‘the local financial and social economy depends on all of us using each others’ goods and services so that money circulates in the community, building a resilience and connection which is supportive when times are hard.’ This is very much the philosophy of the Transition Movement, of which they are active members in Newent.
The benefits of coming to the Kempley Produce Market, apart from a great welcome and lovely cups of coffee, include meeting other producers and networking, which contributes to a strong sense of community.