Top fruit grower Tom Filby is planting new orchards to meet the growing demand for the family’s brand of Norfolk apple juice.
And the new trees at Roughton, near Cromer, are producing twice as much fruit as the mature trees in a long-established orchard, he said.
As a team of pickers start to harvest the dessert apple crop, the prospects are looking very good with plenty of size, said Mr Filby. While he also sells apples through the Roughton farm shop and other local outlets, the bulk of production will be pressed between October and December for the Groveland Apple Juice range.
“We’re building up our orchards and we’re putting in about one hectare a year. We’ve got a total of 12 hectares or 30 acres.
At Roughton, we’re put in a much simpler system with single row and M9 rootstock, so the trees don’t get excessively big.
“The tree is designed to produce fruit rather than grow into a tree. Also we can pick from the ground.”
The Groveland range was introduced 12 years ago and today they produce eight different juices. “We’ve got 24 apple varieties, so we can produce some distinctive juices. The most popular is made from Cox’s Orange Pippins. This is a middle of the range for sweetness.
“We do the Jonagold Red juice, Red Pippin and Greensleeves just to get variety. We actually do a Bramley’s Seedling which is surprisingly quite popular. At the shows, when we offer tastings, we’re always amazed by the popularity of our Bramley’s juice.
“We’ve been making apple juice or about 12 years. It is easier to do our own and when the quality is good, we can crack on and they’re not sitting in chillers for a long time.
“We’re just about coping with the supply of our apples we’ve got but hopefully it is building up to become a really good business on its own. We’ve been juiced our fruit for several years and this season will be our fifth. Sales are going well.
“There is a lot of competition in the market,” said Mr Filby.
Another mature orchard at nearby Aldborough, which is rented, has about 400 trees, which are about 30ft tall. “It is not viable to pick with ladders. They don’t get all get picked – everything from ground level is picked and we have to leave the tops.
“As the big orchard is slowing down, we’re still getting good yields from it but we’re planning for the future,” said Mr Filby.
It has been a challenging season for fruit growers, especially with very late frosts. “There have been some losses in Kent this year where they’ve had some very late frost and that has burned a lot of Cox’s. You’ve always that late frost risk and you can literally have no crop or everything is mis-shapen and has to go for juicing.
“We’re lucky because we’ve got the juicing to fall back on for the smaller fruit,” he added.
The Groveland branch also includes beef produced by other members of the family, Michael and Paul Filby, who run the cattle side.