Combining Heritage And Innovation, The UK’s Charlie Dunn
Speaks Out On Storytelling And Industry Relationships
At The Global Trade Symposium
Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, November 30, 2016
Charlie Dunn is scion of a 200-year old family farming business, now called Chandler and Dunn Ltd. Founded in 1809, the 600 hectare farm encompasses 200 hectares producing potatoes, wheat, beans, barley; 200 hectares of grassland and livestock; and the remaining 200 hectares in top fruit – apples, pears and plums.
Dunn has worked full time at the farm for 18 years with heavy involvement in top fruit and he is currently farm manager. He is also the current chairman of the UK’s “Under 40s Fruit Growers Group” and junior vice chairman of the national fruit show.
He exemplifies what can happen when even the most deeply rooted people engage with new ideas. We thought the story inspirational and motivational, and we invited Charlie to speak at The New York Produce Show and Conference. We asked PRODUCE BUSINESS Contributing Editor Jodean Robbins to find out more:
Chandler and Dunn Ltd
Canterbury Kent, UK
Q: How did you get involved with the Under 40s?
A: I heard about the Under 40s in 2013 from some other fruit growers because I wanted to learn more about our industry and farming. The Under 40s trip that year was to Poland. I was impressed with the amount of knowledge and the enthusiasm in the group. Within three weeks of the trip, I changed things on the farm I worked on. I realized it was a fantastic tool because it helps you develop a network.
The group really supports business because you develop not only friendships but friendships that help with business. About 60 percent of our cost with top fruit is incurred when the fruit leaves the farm gate. The Under 40s present a great way to get to know more about what happens when the fruit leaves the gate and is exchanges with the other people involved.
Q: So what role do you play now with this group and what projects are you doing?
A: In February 2015, I took on the chair of the UK Under 40s for a two-year term. We will be celebrating our 50th Anniversary in February 2017, and I’m very proud to be the chair at this time.
For our bi-annual trip, we’re going to South Africa with a very diverse group. We have people from chemical companies, machine manufacturers, people from the London and Amsterdam produce shows, and reps from print magazines. Out of all the people going, 36 are actual fruit farmers and the other 19 are made up of people who support fruit growing.
Q: Can you tell us more about the group as far as its objectives and activities?
A: The key to this group is our getting together encourages a thirst for knowledge. Everyone is talking about new information and what we can do. The group was founded in 1967 by Professor John Hudson with the goal of helping young fruit growers with education and networking. Being a young fruit grower can be a very insular job. It’s quite nice to be able to “talk shop” with other growers or industry members, whether it be a new innovation or an old problem. You’ve got that network and support.
We have a Facebook group and a website, and we piggyback onto other things during the year. We organize informal farm walks where we post that a few of us will meet up at a certain farm to look at apples, or cherries or pears. We have a bi-annual trip abroad every two years. We’ve now gone to Poland, Holland, and soon South Africa. Between those we have an interim trip somewhere domestically — this year we went to The London Produce Show.
Q: So who can participate?
A: As long as you’re part of the fruit industry, in any shape or form, you can participate. There isn’t an age limit. For example, we have sponsors for the trip who attend with us and many aren’t under 40. The sponsorship subsidizes the trip, making it possible for the young fruit grower to come. The over 40 attendees have a wealth of knowledge they can pass down to the Under 40 growers — that’s invaluable. And, the group is completely free to join.
Q: You are speaking this year at The New York Produce Show and Conference. What is the main subject of your talk?
A: I’ll be sharing my journey of how a traditional family farm boy meets the UK Under 40s and is catapulted into a realm of networks and business opportunities!
I want to talk about the heritage of our family farm — there aren’t many farms of that size and type going on for 200 years.
I also want to reflect on how the Under 40s group has helped me in the four years since I’ve been involved. And, I want to provoke thought on how we take advantage of opportunities currently facing us all. One aspect is branding. Everybody loves a story and with a farm established in 1809, we have a great one to tell; it’s something to be proud of. Another aspect is the opportunities arising when engaging with people, whether they are your peers, your customer or the public.
Q: What would you expect as a result from your talk?
A: While it’s not something new, I hope people will be reminded of the importance of developing a network in your industry. Whether it involves getting to know your customer, whoever you trade with or whoever supports your business. I’d also love the attendees to walk away knowing the passion I have and saying it was a great story.
If someone can take something away from my information, we stand stronger together. The more everybody can work together, the better cohesion you’re going to have in your business and your industry, and the easier it is for everyone.
Q: Do you see more groups like the Under 40s developing?
We want to link with existing grower groups and stimulate new ones. I’m looking forward to seeing what grower groups I meet in New York. And, the first night we’re in South Africa, we are getting all the growers together to talk about how they can form a similar group. We hope to be the catalyst for developing a similar sort of network there.
Q: What do you envision for the future of the Under 40s?
A: Going to South Africa has really raised the profile of the group because it's the first time we’re going outside a European destination. People are saying we’ve raised the bar, and this has raised the enthusiasm about the group and given everyone a drive to do more and bigger things.
If you’re the first person doing something crazy, then you’re considered a little crazy. But, you only need one or two people to follow you and then you become a leader. When we first announced we were going to Capetown, people called us crazy. But now we’ve done it and people esteem us for it.
Here at PRODUCE BUSINESS we are well known for having established the PRODUCE BUSINESS 40 under Forty so we were especially interested in Charlie’s story.
But the issue Charlie raises is the importance of engaging with new ideas, and establishing and deepening relationships within the industry. Well that is a pretty powerful argument for joining us at The Global Trade Symposium and The New York Produce Show and Conference.
So come join us and be inspired by what Charlie has to say and come make new and build stronger connections in New York:
You can register right here
We still have a few hotel rooms in the Headquarters hotel, just e-mail us here with your requirements.
Come and be part of something exception, join us in #Celebrating Fresh