Peter Robson grows the tastiest strawberries in the country – he's such a skilled grower he has been known to supply us with the delicious red berries as late as July! Peter lives in the farmhouse at Common Property: for most of his working life he has been involved in conventional horticulture but he started learning how to grow using organic methods.
"My Dad was from the north of England and had a garden out the back and his father had an allotment. They taught me how to grow. It’s all about understanding the soil, looking at how different varieties perform – and then a whole lot of little things. I guess it’s just in my nature – I’m always looking at differences and analysing the subtle changes"
Peter has a degree in horticultural sciences, and he majored in entymology and plant pathology and also did a business degree. This led to a consultancy contract with the Ministry for Agriculture and Fisheries (now Ministry for Primary Industries) advising on conventional methods of growing a range of fruit and vegetables. He was also a partner in a fumigation company noting that "back then we just sprayed everything. Things have changed a lot since then."
Peter started growing strawberries organically at Common Property and he has carried the scientific approach and the curiosity about differences into this work too. He says that organic growing has different challenges:
"The risks from soil-borne disease is higher and more time has to go into pest management. But the risks of the chemical approach is to the health of the soil and the health of the operators of the spray machines. You tend to find out later what these chemicals can do."
Peter thinks that conventional agriculture will continue to move towards organics.
"The market wants clean food without sprays. Growing organically we work with the environment and find new ways of controlling pests that are natural, like using pheromones to disrupt the reproductive cycle of pests like caterpillars."
The scientific approach and methods that Peter brings to his work combine to provide the delicious strawberries that you can find in our stores.