The Great Cider Debate on 2nd January will host 4 pioneers from the world of cidermaking. Each of them working to keep fruit growing and cider making up to date in a changing market, and climate.
One of these farmers is Albert Johnson, who along with his father Mike, took part in an Innovative Farmers field lab back in 2015. By teaming up with his sheep farming cousin, he was able to produce two products on the same land. But it turned out that wasn’t the only benefit.
Albert and his cousin
Livestock and fruit trees can be risky bedfellows, as livestock can damage an orchard by stripping the bark off the trees. Shropshire sheep have been used by Christmas tree growers as they have a reputation as the only breed not to touch conifer tree bark. But their behaviour in orchards had not been trialled until the Johnson family decided to test the theory. They released 40 ewes into 5 acres of orchard and the field lab was designed to record how they behaved.
The benefits of grazing Shropshire Sheep in Orchards:
- The sheep didn’t nibble the bark, but they did eat leaves on the low hanging branches. A job that would have had to be done by humans. This improves the air flow through the orchard and prevents trees succumbing to fungal diseases.
- Because they eat the grass in the orchard they reduce the need for mechanical mowing. And saved time and money in mowing costs. They took the mowing passes down from three times a year with the tractor to one.
- The need for fertiliser was reduced as manure was being applied by the sheep.
- Orchards are great for the sheep in hot summers or cold winters because they provide shelter.
- And the sheep produce high quality lamb which can be marketed as orchard pasture fed for a better value.
Join us on the 2nd January
There is lots to learn from this trial which could be duplicated across orchards around the country.
To hear from Albert and other pioneering cidermakers, and to get a chance to taste their gorgeous cider and perry, sign up to get a ticket on Eventbrite here.
The Great Cider Debate is happening on Wednesday 2nd January from 6 'til 7.30 at St Edmund's Hall in Oxford.
Also speaking will be:
- Barny Butterfield, a first generation organic farmer from Sandford Orchards
- Henry Chevallier Guild from Aspall, who amongst other things is responsible for re-launching the Aspall vinegar brand.
- And Helen Thomas from Westons, The great granddaughter of Henry Weston, who led increasing turnover at the company from £5.5m to £60m.