A day in the life of a fruit farmer

PUBLISHED: 14:10 20 September 2010 | UPDATED: 17:50 20 February 2013

A day in the life of a fruit farmer

A day in the life of a fruit farmer

Kent Life meets fruit farmer Peter Checkley to hear all about his typical working day

A day in the life of a fruit farmer

Kent Life meets fruit farmer Peter Checkley to hear all about his typical working day

Name: Peter Checkley.

Job title: Farm manager, also owns another farm.

Where: I manage Broadwater Farm which is located in West Malling and I own and manage Castle Farm in East Farleigh with my partner Wendy Johnson

What sort of farms are they?

Broadwater consists of 350 acres, all of which are devoted to top fruit almost entirely apples and pears. Castle Farm is much smaller (50 acres) also devoted to the production of apples and pears.

At what age did you start?

I cannot remember a time when I wasnt involved in farming. My father managed Court Lodge Farm at East Farleigh before it was split up. It was a huge enterprise, at least a thousand acres - but that was before my time. When I joined there were around 550 acres, still large in terms of a fruit farm in the UK.

Who or what was your inspiration?

It had to be my father. He was passionate about fruit and he is still involved. Later I think I obtained inspiration of a different type by spending five years involved in growing vegetables and other fruit in fact, thirty-two different types. I also spent a year in Israel and experienced fruit growing in conditions far removed from those in Kent. I continue to find inspiration in different places. Recently I was in Italy and was impressed by the fruit production in the Merano Valley. It was inspirational in yet another way.

How long have you been in the farming industry?

I knew at 16 what I wanted to do - and I left school with the committed intention of being a farmer.

What training did you have?

I went to Hadlow. At that time 1976 - it was the fruit college. Things changed there a bit when the requirement for training reduced in line with bad times in the UK fruit industry. Now things are on the way up again and I believe Hadlow is on target to regain its former title. I obtained a National Certificate and went on to an Advanced National Certificate in Horticulture specialising in commercial fruit production.

Describe your working day

Fruit farming is very seasonally related and so my working day very much depends on the time of year. A fruit farmers year is really divided into three main segments. Starting after harvest and round about October, we begin pruning and that carries on for up to six months. Somewhere around March we are very much involved in disease, bug and weed control, mowing the grass between the rows of trees and generally maintaining the orchard. Starting in August depending on the variety we begin harvesting. That finishes in October when our year begins all over again.

Tell us about the farm

I would like to tell you about some of the work we are doing at Castle Farm. I am very conscious of climate change issues and the urgent need to produce energy from renewable sources. Planning permission to erect a wind turbine has been applied for by Distgen Ltd, a percentage of which will be owned by us, we are also installing solar panels.

I dont think the valuable part orchards play in relation to sequestering carbon dioxide is always recognised. Without a doubt, Kents fruit farms make an immensely valuable contribution by capturing and storing CO.

I know the readers of Kent Life are passionate about our great county and I would like to take this opportunity to remind them that buying regional food helps to conserve the scenery we all love. Farmers collectively make a big contribution to landscape management.

Do you compete at shows?

We have shown fruit at the National Fruit Show at Detling and I am proud to say we have won prizes too. We havent shown for the last two years but I hope we shall find time in the future. The Fruit Show is a valuable showcase for the industry.

Will your children follow in your footsteps?

I have two, both boys, but at this point neither is considering farming as a career.

Marks out of 10 for job satisfaction?

None out of 10. It would be 10 out of 10 if more of the British shared my enthusiasm for English apples!


Broadwater Farm, Broadwater Road, West Malling ME19 6HT

Tel: 01732 842129

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