60 seconds with...Edward Keene
Edward Keene is a third-generation fruit farmer whose family have been growing Ribena blackcurrants in Gloucestershire for more than 60 years. He speaks with us about wildlife, berries and the harvest season.
How long have you been farming blackcurrants for Ribena?
My family have been growing blackcurrants for three generations. We received our first contract in 1957 and still have a copy!
Why is Britain so well suited to growing blackcurrants?
Cold winters usually help as it gives the blackcurrants longer ‘chill’ time. Without this, the blackcurrant bush would generate fewer, weaker buds, limiting fruit production. The second reason is the passion and experience amongst the growers. There are 35 of us and together we have a wealth of knowledge and talk regularly to share tips and advice.
You’re part of the Blackcurrant Foundation; what’s involved?
For us, it’s all about promoting the goodness and benefits of the British blackcurrant.
90% of blackcurrants grown in the UK go into Ribena; what does this mean for the growing industry?
It means we have a stable market which enables us to invest for the long term and continually improve the quality and sustainability of our blackcurrants.
What are the biggest challenges of farming blackcurrants?
Blackcurrant harvest commences during the first week of July and peaks around the 21st July, so, timing the harvest to ensure Ribena receives the blackcurrants while they’re still at their juiciest is a fine art!
You’re involved with Ribena’s Big Berry Bash; what’s involved and why did you choose to open up your farm?
My family have been growing blackcurrants for Ribena for three generations and the Big Berry Bash is a fantastic opportunity to show people what goes on behind the scenes in a fun and engaging way. There is so much more that goes into farming fruit than people realise and they will get the opportunity to see this on the day. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate the harvest and so we’ll have live music, garden games, food and, of course, Ribena.
Tell us about some of the work you do with Ribena to protect your farms’ wildlife?
All of the growers work closely with FWAG (Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group) and Ribena to build and implement a resilient biodiversity plan to help protect and nurture the wildlife on our farms. Examples include restoring hedgerows, planting trees and erecting nest boxes to name a few.
How have these measures impacted the wildlife on your farm?
We have always taken the protection of the environment and wildlife on our farm very seriously but we recently installed nest boxes and are in the early days of recording new bird numbers. We’re also going to sow a bespoke wild flower mix provided by Ribena which will make a great home for new wildlife.