Kent is often nicknamed the Garden of England, and rightly so; made up of a patchwork of vineyards and fields, plentiful crops of fruits and vegetables grow every year, with farms and orchards ripe for the picking open to the public. Here’s how Kent has earned its title.
Why is Kent the Garden of England?
With one of the warmest climates in the UK, it’s much easier to grow a variety of fruits, vegetables and plants in Kent than in other British counties. Agriculture and horticulture lies at the centre of Kent’s heritage – just one example of this is the numerous oast houses you can see across the region’s landscape, once used for drying hops. The industry continues to thrive today, and much of it can also be enjoyed by the public in the form of pick your own farms, orchards and vineyard tours.
Farming in Kent
According to a DEFRA report, Kent has the most farms and smallholdings in the South East – there are over 2700 throughout the county. These cover all kinds of farms, from cereals to livestock, spanning over 221,000 hectares of farmland and countryside.
Where Kent really excels, however, is in its growing of fruit, which beats everywhere else in the UK; with almost 10,000 fruit crops on commercial holdings, it is miles ahead of the region in second place, Herefordshire, which has just over 6500. Kent is home to 90% of cherries grown in England and 50% of plums grown in the country – two staggering figures considering this is just one corner of the English countryside.
Surround yourself with farming heritage with a stay at one of our working farm cottages or traditional oast houses.
The National Fruit Collection at Brogdale Collections
With those previously mentioned stats in mind, it’s no surprise that Kent is home to the National Fruit Collection, hosted at the Brogdale Collections near Faversham. As illustrated in our infographic, it has a huge number of fruit varieties among its collection. These include 2200 apple varieties, 550 pear varieties, 337 plum varieties, 285 cherry varieties and 42 kinds of nut.
The Brogdale Collections are open to the public year-round, meaning that you can see the fruit as the seasons change with a self-guided tour through the orchards. From March to October guided walking tours, where you can learn more about the collections, take place three times a day. Tractor Trailer Tours also take place between May and September.
A number of events take place throughout the year celebrating the many fruits grown at Brogdale and their harvest. These include the popular Strawberry Fair in June and the two-day Apple Festival in the autumn. It’s also one of the few places where you can attend a Hanami Festival, a traditional Japanese festival celebrating the arrival of the cherry blossoms.
Vineyards in Kent
Kent is home to 45 vineyards which are members of Wines of Great Britain, the official body for the UK wine industry, and there are also several smaller vineyards across the county. A number of these vineyards are open to the public, offering tours of their vineyards, tastings of their grapes and wines, as well as a chance to take home the final product at their on-site shops.
You can find some of the best to visit over at our guide to vineyards in Kent and Sussex.
Farmers’ markets in Kent
Where better to get hold of the region’s local produce than directly from the farmers themselves? With over 45 farmers markets held in towns and villages across Kent, you’re bound to find one near where you’re staying, perfect for stocking up on supplies for your self-catering holiday.
You’ll find most of the farmers’ markets in Kent on the Kent Farmers’ Markets Association website – take a look at this handy map to find out where and when your nearest market is taking place.
Visiting the Garden of England
If you’ve been inspired to eat your way around Kent, with the variety of freshly-grown food it has to offer, take a look at our Kent holiday cottages to find the perfect place to base your foodie adventure.
DEFRA (2016) – Structure of the agricultural industry in England and the UK at June - https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/structure-of-the-agricultural-industry-in-england-and-the-uk-at-june
Why Farming Matters in Kent – Seasonal Food - http://wfminkent.co.uk/farming-in-kent/seasonal-food/
English Wine Producers (2018) – Find a Vineyard - http://www.englishwineproducers.co.uk/vineyards/vineyard-search/?keywords=Search...®ion=452&submit=1
Local Food Britain (2018) – Historic Garden of England - http://localfoodbritain.com/kent/about-kent/historic-garden-of-england/
Brogdale Collections – The Fruit Collection - http://www.brogdalecollections.org/the-fruit-collection/
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