A day in the life of ... Peter Reeves, blackcurrant farmer
PUBLISHED: 12:09 14 September 2011 | UPDATED: 19:58 20 February 2013
Continuing our series 'down on the farm', we meet blackcurrant farmer Peter Reeves to hear all about his typical working day
Words by Pat Crawford pictures by Manu Palomeque
Name: Peter John Reeves
Job title: Partner in F.J. Reeves and Partners
Where: Kent/Sussex borders. The boundary runs along the northern shore of Bewl Water and almost all the farm is in Kent
What sort of farm is it?
Primarily blackcurrants, top fruit, cereals and grapes.
At what age did you start?
My family has been farming since the 1700s and we have farmed here since 1860. You could say farming is in my blood.
Who inspired you?
I obtained a BSc (Hons) degree in Agriculture Economics at Reading and later undertook fruit-related courses at Hadlow College.
Describe your working day
Every day is different, much depending on the season. A typical Tuesday during blackcurrant picking would involve a Business Network International breakfast meeting at 6.30am at Salomons. Usually there will be about 30 of us and we are each allowed a 60-second slot. I might talk about a new product or seek fresh marketing opportunities, anything that would benefit business development. Afterwards, because I am already in the area, I deliver Arena Gold and Arena Black, two of our own brands of fruit juice, to clients in Tunbridge Wells.
When I get back to the farm, I call in to make certain that the picking machinery is all running OK. I then go to check that everything is well with a schools group involved in an Arena Pursuits visit. After that I give a hand with harvesting the blackcurrants. I drive the full trailer (about 8.5 tons of blackcurrants) back to the unloading area, carry out quality control checks, undertake the labelling and other crucial details. Then I very likely fit in a tour for a group of potential corporate clients. Occasionally this will include giving them lunch but, more often than not, I will grab a sandwich on-the-hoof.
Dealing with something like 60-70 emails a day takes up a fair amount of my time. I also deal with the online orders.
Tell us about the farm itself
Its just over 300 acres, about 13 acres of which are devoted to the vineyard where we produce champagne varieties for Chapel Down. Top fruit is primarily apple varieties used in our Arena Gold and Arena Black juices. In a typical year, we grow two per cent of all the blackcurrants that go into making Ribena.
The 70 acres of woodland we use for our diversification project, Arena Pursuits, which is an outdoor activity centre. We specialise in corporate team-building events and social groups of varying ages from as young as six. We are popular for stag and hen and childrens parties, school groups and different types of clubs. We also offer bushcraft and survival, a wide range of country sports including archery and clay pigeon shooting and a lot more besides!
How do you market your produce?
As well as supplying GlaxoSmithKlein, we export blackcurrants to Western Europe. Our 100 per cent fruit juices all made with farm-produced fruit are available in an increasing number of farm shops and other retailers.
Do you have children following in your footsteps?
No, but my mother Jenni, my brother Michael and his wife Veronika, her brother Vasek and his girlfriend, my cousin and three of my nieces are all involved part-time or occasionally, as needed. Its a real family affair!
Marks out of 10 for job satisfaction?
A little bit less office work and little bit more money would warrant a 10!