Producing the Goods
Besley’s Strawberries can be found in the traditional area around Cheddar in Somerset, where early varieties could be grown. The Strawberry belt lies at the foot of the fertile south western slopes of the Mendip Hills from Axbridge to Rodney Stoke where market gardens have long been a local feature.
Seven acres are devoted to Besley’s strawberries, some under poly-tunnels. Pests are kept under control using biological pest controls and free-range chickens – that eat the vine weevils, no chemical pesticides are used. Cliff Besley grows seven varieties that extend the season from early May to late September. He sells most of his crop at farmers’ markets; "…they provided me with an outlet and a viable return. The markets allow you to talk to the customer to see exactly what they want, and it means that they get really fresh strawberries. If it wasn’t for the farmers’ markets, I would not be doing this now." A recent enterprise has been to join with Rookery Farm nearby by providing them with strawberries for a new yoghurt, making use of the skimmed milk they separate from the cream - which is their main product.
Merryfields, Draycott Road, Cheddar, Somerset
Source: Matthew Manning, Blackmore Vale Magazine, 25/6/04