Pick your own fruit, plant your own potatoes and learn a little more about cattle, sheep and poultry production in the process.
That’s the offer being made by Perthshire farmers Grant Reid and Emma Stuart who are opening their Broadslap Fruit Farm tomorrow, to anyone who in interested in finding out where their food comes from and how good it tastes.
Farming a total of 300 acres between Broadslap and the Stuart family’s neighbouring unit, Mains of Duncrub, the husband and wife team are taking part in a national Open Farm Sunday programme run by Leaf (Linking Environment And Farming).
Since Leaf’s first Open Farm Sunday was held in 2006, more than 1,600 farmers across the UK have opened their gates and welcomed 2.2 million people onto their farms for one Sunday each year. It’s a programme which Grant and Emma are delighted to be joining.
“The programme is an attempt to promote farming and show people where the produce they buy in shops, or direct from farmers like us, comes from and how it’s produced,” said Grant.
“Running a farm isn’t always an entirely “rosy” activity. There are some hard facts and figures attached to farming and we’re keen to let people see what actually happens, hopefully giving them a better understanding of our industry as a result.”
Grant and Emma are particularly keen to make sure everyone enjoys their day at Broadslap, with a wide range of activities on offer, including trailer rides around the farm, an opportunity to meet some day-old chicks, a few pedigree sheep and cattle to study and the chance for younger visitors to plant their own potatoes.
Having steadily developed the fruit side of the Broadslap business into an almost 100% pick-your-own (PYO) enterprise over the last six years, Grant and Emma decided to approach potatoes in the same way; for their Open Farm Sunday visitors, that is.
“Younger visitors on Sunday will be encouraged to plant their own potato during the day and return later in the year to harvest what they’ve grown,” said Grant. “They’ll then be able to take their own new potatoes home to enjoy.”
Product freshness and taste are the hallmarks of the Broadslap enterprise.
“We have about 10 acres committed to fruit production, split between raspberries, strawberries, red and black currants and gooseberries,” said Grant.
“For us, the PYO business is all about giving people an opportunity to obtain fruit which is absolutely fresh, instead of it having sat on a retail shelf for three or four days. It’s also about providing them with the best flavours we can achieve.
“We’re still growing berries in the ground, therefore, as opposed to using a table-top system. That means we’re taking nutrients from the soil rather than putting them into the crop through some other system. We believe our approach allows us to deliver better-tasting fruit to our PYO customers, and they seem to agree.”
Grant then named a strawberry variety which many of his PYO customers said they really didn’t like, having previously bought it in a supermarket and decided it just didn’t taste good.
“When they taste the same variety, grown by us and picked fresh by them, however, the reaction is quite different,” he said. “They’re always telling me they’ve discovered they like it after all.
“Feedback from consumers is really important for farmers, with the regular contact we have with our PYO customers sometimes even leading to changes in the varieties we grow. A few years ago, for example, we grew a strawberry variety named Florence. Unfortunately, it wasn’t liked by fruit wholesalers, for some reason, so we stopped growing it, given we were selling 50% of our output through wholesalers at the time.
“This year, however, with almost all our output now sold on a PYO basis, we’re growing Florence again. That’s purely because our customers said how much they like it and could we please try it again.”
Broadslap’s Sunday programme isn’t all about fruit, however, with a few poultry, cattle and sheep, all ‘imported’ from Mains of Duncrub, being put on display for visitors to see close up.
“We want to get the message across to our visitors how farmers feel about their animals,” said Grant. “We all take great pride in what we do, whether that’s producing fruit, grain or livestock.
“Our aim for Sunday is to play our part in Leaf’s programme to let people know how farming works while also communicating that we’re really proud, as an industry, of what we do.”