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East Anglia Future 50

Energy from this strawberry farm powers 1,400 homes every year

PUBLISHED: 15:00 15 June 2019

Strawberries and juice at Barn Farm  Picture: Barn Farm/Emma Kindred

Strawberries and juice at Barn Farm Picture: Barn Farm/Emma Kindred

Emma Kindred

Sourced Locally producer D C Williamson has just released its fruit juices into East of England Co-op stores...we found out more about the brand.

Craig and Gail Williamson  Picture: Barn Farm/Emma KindredCraig and Gail Williamson Picture: Barn Farm/Emma Kindred

It's 6am and in fields overlooking the River Stour, up to 50 people are already hard at work picking delicious locally grown strawberries. For D C Williamson, a soft fruit farm near Manningtree, strawberry season kicked off a few weeks ago which means long days and lots of hard graft.

But the hard work is all worth it for this successful family-run business and the team behind juice range, Barn Farm Drinks. Headed up by husband and wife, Craig and Gail Williamson, Craig is a third-generation farmer who took over the farm from his father in 2000. Gail also has farming roots, having grown up at a nearby farm in Ardleigh.

"For most people, the arrival of British strawberries in supermarkets means that summer is just around the corner, but for us it marks the start of our busiest time of year," explains Craig. This year the farm has planted an incredible 84,000 strawberry plants to keep up with demand and they are expecting to harvest 35,000kg of the fruits.

"The varieties we grow are Sonata, Driscolls Katrina and Malling Centenary, which we've chosen for their great taste, sweetness and their classic strawberry looks," Craig adds.

Once picked, the strawberries are sold through the East of England Co-op - D C Williamson is one of the Co-op's Sourced Locally suppliers, supplying fresh strawberries to 20 stores in Essex and often delivering them to store just hours after they've been picked. They also supply national supermarket chains where they are sold under stores' own label brands.

Later in the month, the strawberries will be joined on shelves by fresh D C Williamson raspberries.

"We grow blackberries, rhubarb, blackcurrants, redcurrants and gooseberries too," says Craig, "so it's not just the strawberries which keep us on our toes!"

The farm also provides frozen strawberries, raspberries, mixed berries, gooseberries, redcurrants and blackcurrants to 96 East of England Co-op stores across Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk, and they're very popular. Craig says: "It has been known for customers to phone us directly if their local shop has run out because they have frozen berries with their breakfast every morning!"

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It's this combination of fresh and frozen produce, and the variety of fruit that they grow, which enabled D C Williamson to expand their business 18 months ago and launch Barn Farm Drinks after noticing a demand for farm-pressed, quality fruit juices.

The Barn Farm Drinks range consists of four cloudy juices - Raspberry & Apple, Strawberry & Apple, Blackberry & Apple and Raspberry, Blackcurrant & Apple - along with a special edition, clear version of the Raspberry & Apple juice to use as a mixer for spirits.

The juices are pressed and bottled on the farm and use berries which are either grown on site or sourced locally, and apples from Suffolk and Kent. They are all 100% fruit juice, with no added sugar or colours and a serving counts as one of your five a day.

As a nation of strawberry lovers, it may come as no surprise to know that their most popular flavour is Strawberry & Apple - featuring the D C Williamson strawberries.

"It's been a great first 18 months for Barn Farm Drinks," says Craig. "We're one of only two Red Tractor approved juice producers in the country and are stocked in almost 200 retail and trade outlets across the region."

What sets D C Williamson and Barn Farm Drinks apart is their environmental ethos - they harvest and reuse rainwater and generate electricity from the fruit press waste. They also have an on-site solar farm which generates enough electricity for 1,400 homes in the local area every year.

Fresh and frozen D C Williamson berries and Barn Farm Drinks are available to purchase from East of England Co-op stores as part of their Sourced Locally range and in local farm shops.

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