RINGDEN FRUIT FARM
Originally founded in 1949 after the sale of land belonging to the Seacox Heath Estate. Ringden Farm was a just a bare 17 acre field.Purchased by John and Robert Hunt from Brenchley, they felt the site was suitable for growing fruit. They planted up the land with apples, pears, plums and even a few peaches. These young trees formed the backbone of a quite mature holding when in 1963 they moved to a larger farm in Sedlescombe and Ben Dench bought the farm.
Over the next 15 years, older trees were replaced and an additional 6 acres was purchased from the farm next door. This new orchard was planted with smaller trees, closer together to give a better yield. New coldstores were built and an extension was made on the Packhouse to handle the larger volume of fruit.
Ben died in 1978 and Chris, his son took over. In the early 1980’s fruit prices were fluctuating and Chris and Lesley looked at making fresh juice from the apples that were not ‘Class I’ but decided against it. Then in 1990 a violent hailstorm swept through Kent and Sussex, decimating the fruit crop and leaving them with hardly any saleable fruit.This storm proved the tipping point, so they had a small batch made by a local vineyard. The labels were printed in Hastings and applied by hand to each bottle. The juice was then offered to all of our wholesale fruit customers. The juice sold much better than anyone could have hoped for, so the decision was made to purchase a press, mill and a pasteurising bath. New equipment was almost all either German or Austrian and very expensive. Luckily a second had press came up for sale in Somerset. We had a pasteuriser made for us by our local agricultural engineer, which we still have and still works!
Realising the demand for fresh farm juice, more money was invested into the juicing side of the farm, until eventually the juice production was all enclosed in it’s own building, with four full time members of production staff.
From a starting point of 1,000 litre bottles to last a whole season in 1990, we can now make 8,000 litres in a single day.