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

Polytunnels: Why we must all learn to love them

PUBLISHED: 01:16 03 October 2011 | UPDATED: 20:05 20 February 2013

Polytunnels: Why we must all learn to love them

Polytunnels: Why we must all learn to love them

Polytunnels are a fact of life for a county where fruit production is so important, and here's why we must all learn to love them.

Polytunnels are a fact of life for a county where fruit production is so important, and heres why we must all learn to love them.

If you live in Kent and are neither a soft fruit grower nor employed by one, you possibly dont like polytunnels or cherry covers very much. If you live somewhere with a rural view which features a clutch of them, you might have a stronger view still.

As inhabitants of one of the nations most important fruit-producing counties, however maybe we should know a bit more about them.

Kent is known as the Garden of England with good reason. Some 76 per cent of the countrys agricultural land is devoted to fruit production, which is worth around 120 million to the rural economy.

Farmers are not at liberty to change what they grow at a whim, and it is not just climate that dictates crop choices soil type and topography are equally influential, as are the considerable farm infrastructure and knowledge built up over generations.

Why do we need them?
Most of us are aware that polytunnels extend the growing season, and growers in Kent can now pick fresh fruit from April to November. Polytunnels also protect the developing crop from rain, hail, birds and wind damage, and the covers reduce the need for pesticides.

With the more predictable growing conditions, farmers are able to increase the reliability of supply to their customers, also securing their market against foreign competition and reducing our food miles.

The better working conditions that polytunnels create also improve the labour forces productivity and reduce waste. The higher yield means fruit grown in polytunnels has a lower carbon footprint than fruit from uncovered fields.

We as customers benefit from a reliable supply of high-quality, competitively priced and extremely healthy food that previous generations would have considered a luxury.

Soft fruit grown in the open now is for niches such as pick-your-own and the small organic sector worthwhile but not large-scale options.

It is now hard to find a soft fruit growing nation where farmers leave their crop to the mercy of the elements. The planning system imposes controls, particularly in areas of landscape designation such as Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Conflicting visions
By and large, those who live in the countryside muddle along pretty well with those who work the soil. A few generations back they were of course one and the same. Today the countryside being a place of retreat for many who have settled there, is a place of work for others and this can create conflict, particularly when the realities of modern agriculture dont quite chime with the rural idyll. However, this is not new and I am sure that hop wirework was just as shocking to our forbears.

I am passionate about the Kent countryside and believe we should protect it. Discussion about agricultural development (like other forms of development) needs to be carefully considered and a balanced approach is essential. The desire of todays farmers to seek a return from their investment in the land is no different from that of their ancestors.

Competitive forces result in processes which might be less pleasing to the eye than the ones they have replaced.

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