6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Kent Life today CLICK HERE

Meet the Maidstone rhubarb grower

PUBLISHED: 14:55 11 June 2013 | UPDATED: 15:07 11 June 2013

Rhubarb grower Tony Sunnucks

Rhubarb grower Tony Sunnucks

Manu Palomeque

Tony Sunnucks of Rankins Farm on why rhubarb is having a comeback in the kitchen

Name: Tony Regan Sunnucks

Job title: Farmer

Where? At the bottom of Linton Hill near Maidstone

What sort of farm is it?

It is primarily top fruit – apples, pears and plums, but just now we are concentrating on our rhubarb.

At what age did you start?

My maternal grandfather, Frank Day, bought the farm for my mother, Josephine, when she and my father got married in the sixties. My father, John Sunnucks, managed the farm and so in a sense I am third generation. I went to Sutton Valence School as a day boy and from a very young age I helped on the farm. You could say it was in my blood.

Where did you train?

I toyed with the idea of going to Hadlow but, in the end, at 17 I had had enough of education and just wanted to get on with the job. I trained and learnt while I was working on the farm. I was a member of Cranbrook Young Farmers which was also a help. Perhaps I should also mention that I was a keen cricketer and hockey player and for several years I was in Marden’s first teams for both sports.

How long have you farmed?

I began working on the farm full time in 1982 but I had been helping on the farm since I was a very small boy. Quite a long time! My wife, Sarah, otherwise known as Scary, does the accounts and very competently turns her hand to just about anything and everything on the farm.

Tell us about the farm

We have about 220 acres of which 150 acres are devoted to fruit. That includes eight acres of rhubarb. We grow Timperley Early, a wonderful rosy coloured variety that has a good flavour, cooks well and can also be eaten raw. The acreage not devoted to fruit is used to produce a hay crop, but we are planning to increase the size of our orchards.

Describe a typical working day

I am sure everyone says the same – “it varies depending on the time of year.” At the moment we are busy with the rhubarb. The season started late due to the weather and we began harvesting a month later than usual. We start about 7am and I employ six Eastern Europeans who are very hard working. We are currently pulling something in the region of 250 kilos of rhubarb a day. We remove the head and tail and then pack the stalks into field crates. These are then taken to our own packhouse ready to go to market.

How do you market?

We market through Total Berry. The majority of our rhubarb goes to Tesco’s. There has been a strong resurgence in the popularity of rhubarb. My favourite remains crumble with thick cream and ice cream – my mother is especially good at this one. The celebrity chefs have promoted the versatility of rhubarb, devising smoothies, sauces, chutneys, jams and as accompaniments to meat.

Any children following in your footsteps?

We have two daughters. Gemma is 20 and she is studying for a degree in Business and Management at Durham University and Annabel is in her final year at Invicta Grammar School and is especially interested in IT and business. I have no doubt that one, or both, the girls will have an involvement with the farm at some time or another.,

Marks out of 10 for job satisfaction?

I don’t need to think about this one – it is a 10!

GET IN TOUCH

Sarah and Tony Sunnucks, Rankins Farm, Linton Hill, Maidstone ME17 4AU

01622 745631 or scarytoe@kentit.net www.rankinsfarm.co.uk

More from People

Chris Wiggins on how his childhood love of horses and the outdoors led to the career he loves

Read more
March 2019
Thursday, March 14, 2019

Jamie Cullum will be showcasing songs from his new album at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival – and it’s going to be emotional

Read more

Canterbury artist James Bland on figurative painting and the alchemy of oils

Read more
February 2019
Thursday, February 28, 2019

Following a 16-month construction project, the new museum has opened its doors to visitors, offering them the chance to experience the inspirational history of Britain’s most famous airfield

Read more
March 2019
Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Take a step back in time to the good old days with these vintage videos from around Kent

Read more

We are delighted to announce that the second Kent Life and The Canterbury Auction Galleries’ competition to find the county’s finest collectors is now open for entries

Read more
Tuesday, January 22, 2019

This rural retreat in a converted Victorian granary provides an organic and holistic spa service that’s all about ageing well

Read more
January 2019

This month, the National Trust is encouraging us all to embrace the wintery weather conditions and get out of doors, whatever the forecast may say

Read more
January 2019

Whether it’s in our professional or personal lives, sometimes we could all do with a little direction and clarity. Meet four inspirational life coaches

Read more
January 2019

Catherine’s subject matter is a very personal response to her surroundings

Read more
December 2018

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory
Kent Life Food & Drink awards. Open for entries.

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad


Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook


Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search

Most Read

Latest from the Kent Life