Celebrating 70 Years of Growing Success

A.R. Neaves & Sons is often looked upon as being from the ‘old school’ of fruit growers, with a set of values that many people probably think vanished years ago, including genuinely friendly, helpful customer service.

However, although its customer service is all of that and more, this family business, based at Doddington, near Sittingbourne in Kent, is a truly 21st century company, having invested shrewdly in cold stores, packhouse equipment and orchards.

Indeed, well over £350,000 has been spent on updating the packhouse and a four-lane computer-controlled Greefa grading and packing machine with a water flotation bin unloading system. The major investment, however, is in the eight 300-bin controlled-atmosphere (CA) stores that cost £650,000 and in 2009 8 more stores were built holding approx (132 tonnes)

Moreover, A.R. Neaves is one of the few UK cherry growers to have invested in cherry graders; two Calibrex machines costing a total of around £100,000 in 2007/08. Each machine is capable of grading 1200 to 1500 12lb (5.4kg) crates per day. The cherry machines grade the fruit in 2mm steps from 22mm to 34mm. Fruit is hand-tipped into a hopper from which it is elevated into a piece of equipment that separates the bunches into singles without removing the stalks. The cherries are discharged onto an inspection conveyor and are then transferred to the multiple diverging belt grader, from which the many sizes are conveyed to the punnet packing points.

This forward-looking philosophy is also evident in the selling of A.R. Neaves’ fruit, with the company being a member of two of the most progressive marketing groups; one for stone fruit and the other for apples and pears, Berry Gardens and Norman Collett.

An award-winning firm, A.R. Neaves first opened its doors for business in 1941 and therefore celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. Initially, the company grew just cherries; today, it farms some 500 acres (202ha), of which approximately half is owned, while the remainder is rented. Of these 500 acres, nearly 450 acres (182ha) is orchard, comprising around 350 acres (142ha) of apples and pears, plus 65 acres (26ha) of cherries and 30 acres (12ha) of plums.

Cox is still the company’s foremost apple variety with around 150 acres (61ha), but there are also large areas of Gala and Braeburn – 40 acres (16ha) each. In addition, Neaves has 10 acres (4ha) of the agreeably coloured Fuji clone, Benny Shogun, 17 acres (7ha) of Rubens and five acres (2ha) of the scab, mildew and aphid-resistant Modi. The latter two varieties were bred by the Italian company CIV (Consorzio Italiano).

The world, and the fruit growing industry, has changed dramatically since Archie Neaves first founded the company in 1941, but he would still recognise the pride, commitment and downright hard work that his family puts into ensuring some of the finest top fruit and stone fruit in Britain. And for its customers, that really is something to celebrate!

You can contact A.R. Neaves on 01795 886263.

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