White House Farm grateful to Roys of Wroxham for help selling huge surplus of PYO pears

David Curtis, known as Sparrow, at White House Farm. He retired last week after 50 years working on

David Curtis, known as Sparrow, at White House Farm. He retired last week after 50 years working on the land. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2014

A Norfolk fruit grower has finally found an outlet for some of this year's vast surplus of pears – and is now looking ahead to plans to secure the firm's future viability.

The managers of White House Farm in Sprowston feared that much of their unsold produce would rot on the ground this autumn, so they were grateful to find a willing retailer in Roys of Wroxham.

Oliver Gurney, a former Royal Marine who took over the running of the pick-your-own (PYO) business with his wife Charlotte two years ago, said the store had already taken 15 x 15kg boxes, and he hopes the agreement will continue next year.

But he said he needs to find a long-term solution for his family's orchards of 2,000 apple trees and 450 pear trees, which were originally established to supply in volume to the Norfolk Fruit Growers co-operative.

'There are millions of pears out there and they look lovely,' he said. 'But because these orchards were set up for Norfolk Fruit Growers we are never going to sell it all as PYO.

'Roys of Wroxham have been really good. All we have to do is pick the fruit and put it into boxes for them.

'Long-term, I'm tearing my hair out. We are making money on the soft-fruit, but not on the top-fruit. We might have to rip the whole lot out and concentrate on what makes money.'

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The PYO fruit operation, including apples, pears, raspberries, blackberries and blackcurrants, takes up 50 acres of the 450-acre farm off Blue Boar Lane, north of Norwich.

Mr Gurney said the soft-fruit side of the business is thriving, after investment in irrigation systems and a re-focus on planting fresh berry plants in coir (coconut husk) bags each year to reduce the labour costs of pruning.

After the opening of a new cafe this summer, the next stage of the farm's development will be the addition of a farm shop and butcher next year.

'The soft fruits are doing brilliantly,' said Mr Gurney. 'We sunk about £100,000 into it, which was scary, but we are here for the long-term and we will try to keep the families coming.

'The cafe opened this summer, and the main plan now is to get the shop going. We want to get lots more products on the shelves, get the butcher in there and make it a proper farm shop – but it has got to be affordable.'

Do you have a farming success story? Contact chris.hill@archant.co.uk