Jan Redpath  -  Cherry production globally - a study of best practice.

The Royal Highland and Agricultural Society

I live in Scotland and I have been in the food and farming industry for 17 years now, having started in organic potato production for a business that became part of one of the UK’s largest potato producers and packers, at a time when the second coming of organic was just starting.  This job involved not only figuring out how it could be done, but how it could be done on a large scale to supermarket requirements and quality, and then the satisfaction of seeing this develop into 200 acres of commercial production ending up on retailer shelves, as well as developing a group of growers to augment this tonnage.

I then started working for a major supermarket chain in their central offices travelling the world looking at all sorts of exotic produce.  After five years travelling all over, I then moved back to Scotland and started working for a large soft fruit business dealing with a family of entrepreneurial growers.  I’m a senior manager and the growers look to me and my team of five for advice and ideas on all aspects from agronomy to quality and standards, as well as what to grow next within or outwith soft fruit.

Outside of work I’ve been a keen horticulturalist since the age of 11 and have worked on farms since around the same age as well as growing vegetables in my parents back garden as a kid, which I sold back to them!  I’m keen on travel, and enjoy hillwalking, surfing and swimming when time allows.

I am delighted to have been sponsored by Malcolm Isaac and The Royal Highland and Agricultural Society Scotland.

I’ve always been interested in what’s next, what’s round the corner, sometimes at exactly the right time as per my first career move above and sometimes prematurely – my honours thesis was on renewable energy, possibly about 15 years before the time had come for this to accelerate, but I’m always keen to find the next niche.

I see an opportunity in the Northern part of the UK in general to be the last country to ripen in the Northern hemisphere at a time when Southern UK, and European fruit in general is virtually finished but Southern Hemisphere production has yet to come to market.

Blueberries have been an example of a crop that has taken full advantage of this niche, but has taken 10 years of trial and error before reaching the stage that new growers can now just take what works and make it work on their own farm.

Growers I talk to would like to find out what’s next.  Having identified a gap in the market for cherries, some growers have already made a tentative start on producing this in the top half of the country, but others yet could capitalise on this chance.  Those who have started admit that it has been a lot of trial and error and still rather a lot to learn and/or rather a lot of conflicting opinions on best practice.  My aim is to make this into a real opportunity for growers in the Northern UK but without the expensive lessons learned in blueberry production, by travelling the world and learning first-hand what works, what might be applicable to our conditions, and as importantly what varieties are coming forward that can extend the season into the later part of the year.