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Love Locavore: Because local produce is miles better

Locavore: a person whose diet consists only or principally of locally grown or produced food.

W&D Riccini

Spanning 1,368 square miles of English soil and boasting the perfect growing conditions, Kent has firmly established its identity as The Garden of England. From vineyards and hop gardens to fruit orchards and fields of veggies, Kent’s luscious land provides a plethora of produce that serves a nation.

Arguably best known for its orchards, Kent is at the forefront of the fruit growing industry in the UK, claiming 90% of cherries grown in England and 50% of plums grown in the country – two staggering figures considering this is just one corner of Britain. With almost 10,000 fruit crops on commercial holdings, it is miles ahead of the rest of the country and even the region in second place, Herefordshire, which has just over 6,500.

However, it is not just fruit that Kent excels at growing. According to a DEFRA report, Kent has the most farms and smallholdings in the South East, with over 2,700 throughout the county. These cover all kinds of farms, from cereals to livestock, spanning over 221,000 hectares of farmland and countryside. But why is Kent just so perfect for produce? 

The Magnificent Seven

Seven top reasons why Kent is great for growing

Kent Cherry Co.

Mild climate: Kent benefits from a relatively mild and temperate climate, with moderate temperatures throughout the year – meaning our warm and sunny weather isn’t just great for beach trips and summer staycations! Our climate is conducive to a wide range of crops, fruits and vegetables.

Good sunlight exposure: Going hand-in-hand with our climate is the amount of sunlight we get, which is essential for the process of photosynthesis. Sunlight is a critical factor for the growth, development and ripening of fruits and vegetables – which makes the county particularly great for producing wine – cheers!

Adequate rainfall: We’ve all been guilty of complaining about the rain, but it’s actually pretty good for us! Kent typically experiences a consistent and well-distributed amount of rainfall. This ensures that plants receive sufficient water for their growth, reducing the need for excessive irrigation.

Fertile soil: The soils in Kent are often fertile and suitable for agriculture. Fertile soil provides essential nutrients to plants, promoting healthy growth and robust yields – so keen gardeners are easily pleased too!

Proximity to water sources: Being located near the coast, Kent has easy access to water sources. This can be beneficial for irrigation purposes, ensuring that crops have a stable and sufficient water supply.

Diverse agricultural landscape: Kent has a long history of agriculture and its landscape includes a mix of farmland, orchards and gardens. The diversity of agricultural practices in the region contributes to the availability of a variety of fruits and vegetables, this with our close proximity to London markets and direct rail links, always made us the perfect candidate for supplying the country with our produce. 

Tradition of horticulture: Kent has a strong tradition of horticulture and fruit cultivation – dating really far back. If you’re a regular reader of insideKENT, you probably already know it was likely Henry VIII that coined the name: ‘The Garden of England’. This has led to the development of expertise and knowledge in growing specific crops, making it a hub for fruit production – after around 1,000 years, it really is our ‘brand’ now.

W&D Riccini

The real testament to Kent’s Garden of England glory however, lies in the taste. Year after year, Kent continues to come up trumps in a myriad of competitions and awards in this area. This includes the National Fruit Show (www.nationalfruitshow.org.uk), the best showcase for British apples and pears when they are at their absolute peak having just been harvested. As further testament to this, the county has an infinite amount of award-winning restaurants that prioritise cooking with local produce and fresh, seasonal ingredients.

W&D Riccini

However, it’s not just our delicious fruit, veg and wine that make Kent the ultimate place for a produce-loving locavore. This county has worked as the ultimate inspiration for a wide range of creatives and small business owners, including skincare and beauty brands that utilise Kent’s produce in their concoctions. Kelsey, Pelegrims and Romney Marsh Wools are just three examples of how Kent-grown produce is used in other products. Kelsey use raspberries, a great antioxidant in their skincare range, Pelegrims use the grape skins of Westwell Wines in their skincare and soaps, and Romney Marsh Wools famously use the lanolin from their sheep wool to help heal dry skin and make it super soft.

T&S Bradley

But why is it so important to buy local?

Five fabulous reasons to buy local produce

Trevor Bradley of T&S Bradley

Economic impact: One of the most significant advantages of buying local is the positive impact on the community’s economy. When consumers choose locally produced goods, they contribute directly to the growth and prosperity of their own neighbourhoods. Local businesses generate jobs, foster entrepreneurship and help circulate money within the community. In turn, this economic vitality leads to improved public services and a higher quality of life for residents.

Environmental sustainability: The carbon footprint associated with transporting goods over long distances is a considerable contributor to environmental degradation. Opting for local products drastically reduces the environmental impact of transportation and supports a more sustainable supply chain. Fewer miles travelled means reduced emissions, helping to combat climate change and promote a healthier planet. Additionally, local producers often employ more sustainable farming practices, contributing to the overall environmental health of the region.  Lessening the mileage that food travels before it arrives on your plate is a largely contributing factor when it comes to helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as contributing towards improving our carbon footprint as a whole and avoiding unnecessary packaging and refrigeration.

Freshness and quality: Local food is often fresher and of higher quality compared to products that have travelled extensive distances. When consumers purchase locally grown produce or locally made goods, they enjoy the benefit of items harvested or created at their peak. Freshness not only enhances flavour but also ensures that consumers receive products with maximum nutritional value. Supporting local farmers and artisans means a commitment to a higher standard of quality.

Preservation of culture and community identity: Local products often carry a distinct cultural and regional identity. By choosing to buy local, consumers contribute to the preservation of unique flavours, traditions and craftsmanship that define their community. This fosters a sense of pride and connection among residents, creating a shared identity that goes beyond the transactional nature of commerce – after all, Kent has been adored as The Garden of England for hundreds of years. Preserving local culture adds depth and character to a community, making it a more vibrant and appealing place to live.

Optimum working conditions and high welfare standards: Buying food that has been grown by local producers ensures high welfare standards are always met. In the UK, farmers and growers go through rigorous audits and must ensure that many important standards are met in order for them to grow and trade in the UK. This doesn’t just mean working conditions for staff, but welfare and living standards for animals, too. An even better way to ensure what you’re eating has been properly reared or grown is by looking for the Red Tractor logo on the food you buy. Find out more about this on pages 62-66.  

Trevor Bradley of T&S Bradley

Where can I buy Kentish produce?

Kent is home to a whole host of fabulous farm shops all selling local fruit, veg, wine, cider, beer, skincare and much more. Some insideKENT favourites include Macknade Faversham (as seen on pages 53-56), Broadditch Farm Shop near Gravesend, Penelope’s Farm Shop near Sidcup, Taywell Farm Shop in Goudhurst and Gibson’s near Wingham.

T&S Bradley

However, even if you’re doing a quick supermarket sweep, you’re likely to find seasonal Kentish produce on the shelves and most certainly fresh British produce. But what if you can’t? “Never be afraid to ask the supermarket staff and managers where the local, British produce is,” says Kent fruit grower David Riccini. “In a world that is striving to be more sustainable, green and eco-friendly, never before has eating local produce been so important. If you are carbon footprint and plastic consumption conscious, this is all the more crucial as British grown produce uses up so much less.” Supermarkets must be held accountable in helping achieve this and supporting local farmers and growers. When shopping for fruit and vegetables in supermarkets, always read the label to make sure you are aware of growing origins. 

The decision to buy local food and locally made products is not merely a choice of convenience, but a conscious effort to build stronger, more resilient communities and a healthier planet. From boosting local economies to fostering environmental sustainability and preserving cultural identity, the advantages of choosing local are manifold. As consumers, we hold the power to shape the future of our communities and the planet by making mindful choices that prioritise the wellbeing of both – so let’s keep Kent growing and be as ‘locavore’ as we can – it does the world of good.

Kent Cherry Co.

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