Guillermo De Las Heras, bio-dynamic grower from Brambletye Fruit Farm
Just north of Forest Row and at the end of a long and windy lane, Brambletye Farm is a peaceful and lovely place. It is surrounded by bluebell and wild garlic woods, blossoming orchards and fresh green hills almost quivering with Spring energy. The land is worked inter-dependently by three separate businesses using biodynamic principles and uses a largely closed system where little waste is produced and few other products are brought in to the farm. Most of the farm produce is sold directly to the customer at over thirty, mainly London, markets, but about a quarter is sent to the wholesaler where it could end up in an Abel & Cole box or on Sainsbury's shelves.
Photograph: Carlotta Luke
Ellie and Stein Leenders grow the main crop of fourteen varieties of apple, two of pear and some soft fruit, while Daniel and Karen Hoeberichts raise their 2,500 happy and healthy hens in the orchard. The hens get most of their food from pecking around the trees and their houses are regularly moved to new sites, fertilizing the tree roots. More droppings and the chopped tree prunings are composted for Jochen's vegetable plot. While the cold store is out of use in the early part of the year, it is turned into a mushroom house, the crop growing well on old apple wood. A hand powered fruit juicing system turning out a thousand bottles of apple juice a day completes the farm's current production.
Born in Madrid, Guillermo started his career as a social worker but now really enjoys the community, ethics and natural beauty at Brambletye Farm. Guillermo has worked on the land at Brambletye for four years where his main role is in pruning fruit trees. He works in exchange for produce and then makes his living by selling fruit and juice, eggs and vegetables at markets south of London. Guillermo agrees with Stein that the weather and its current unpredictable patterns are a huge challenge. The crop yields can vary from, for example, a sad 400kg up to this year's predicted 60 tons from ten acres of pears. “So far, Lewes has not tasted our pears – this year that will a great new experience!"
While the pear blossom sets and the gooseberries and strawberries swell, Guillermo is selling the new crop of mushrooms and has shared his favourite breakfast recipe.