Morgane, our intern, is doing the rounds of visiting our customers and growers to get an idea of how food works in Sussex, from her Parisian point of view. Here’s her first interview with Robert from Tibbs Farm, at Udimore, who grows our delicious summer fruit.
Morgane’s interview with Robert at Tibb’s Farm (June 2016)
Muir and I went to visit Tibbs farm, in Udimore, East Sussex. At the moment they are growing mainly strawberries and gooseberries but other summer fruit will come soon. They specialise in “pick your own fruits”.
We met Robert Wheeler there, owner of the farm. He showed us round his farm, where he grows all the delicious fruit bushes. I had the opportunity to interview him.
Could you please tell me the story of your farm? And how did you become a farmer?
So I’m from a farming family going back a long time. We’ve been growing hops for six generations. So I’m a sixth generation hop grower, so that goes back to the 1790s. My immediate farming family also goes back a long time. My father came here in 1956 and this is where I work now. That’s how I became a farmer.
Why did you choose to follow the family path? Did you have the choice to do something else?
I certainly once had a choice. I went to university and could have got a job but farming is a way of life, isn’t it, so that is why I wanted to become a farmer.
What fruit do you produce?
Well we have strawberries, loganberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries and redcurrants and further on we grow raspberries as they’re quite popular fruits. Later on, we also have blackberries. We grow our fruit – on this sloping bank for drainage and easy access.
Do you have pickers to pick your fruits?
Yes, we have pickers in for that. We try not to waste any, that’s the point. Nobody likes waste, so we do pick quickly. There are some fruits whose shelf-life is very short, like loganberries, and if you don’t pick them when they’re ready, after a day, they go mushy and juicy, and must be thrown away.
When do you grow?
We are now so used to seeing strawberries in shops all year around. You have them in glass- houses and you have them from South Africa or anywhere you like, they’re all coming but flavour is best when they are properly grown in season. So, you can have strawberries all year around. But the traditional way in this country; they start about June-July, and that is the peak season for strawberries.
And here, we grow them in the ground without cover, so we don’t force them to come early and we don’t try to make them come late. We choose different varieties so the season can last as long as possible.
How do you treat your fruit?
We try to be as organic as possible. We just have to make sure we don’t have disease problems. There are aphids and other insects, but we live with them!
Come and visit us and see our online shop at www.finandfarm.co.uk
Click on Delivery to see if you are in our delivery area.
If not, then hopefully at some point we can deliver to you!