Inspiring Young Fruit Farmer of Dorset
When I first met Yasmin Reid, a shy unassuming young lady, I really had no idea at all that she was the proprietor of the wonderful Blagdon Fruit Farm.
At the age of 15, Yasmin's grandfather was running a pick your own at Blagdon farm and that had happened quite by accident. He and his wife had purchased the land to run ponies on. It was only when they were given some raspberry bushes by a friend that the fruit farm was born. They ran a campsite alongside this, and it worked very well.
At the age of 15 Yasmin was desperate to buy an iPad, so with her grandparents’ permission she set up selling cream teas on the fruit farm to save for one. During that time something clicked in her mind and she later announced to her family, much to their surprise that she wanted to go to Kingston Maurward College to study horticulture.
So, at the age of 16 she did indeed do that and studied hard and by 17 was working and studying, putting every penny she could away for her future.
Unfortunately, Yasmin's grandfather became ill and was no longer able to keep the fruit farm open, so her grandmother just continued with the campsite.
By the age of 17 Yasmin was working several jobs, one of which involved looking after 40 different gardens. She was travelling the county in a van caring for private gardens and it was at this point she started to feel that all the cutting and clearing was sometimes a waste of plants. So, taking the plants she’d been asked to clear or cut she began to save some odd cuttings and divided other plants and at the weekend took them to her grandad’s farm and potted them up in an old polytunnel.
Her dad built her some potting benches and she bought large quantities of compost in a closing down sale of a nursery in the area. Eventually she began selling the plants to friends and family.
Yasmin took on more work, gardening at the Sculpture by the Lakes, continuing to save because now she was beginning to understand exactly what she was saving for. While potting and nurturing she dreamed of having her own nursery. She had a vision and she became determined to make her vision her reality!
As Yasmin’s cuttings and potting on became more time-consuming, Yasmin decided she needed more time to do this. She was gardening five days a week and doing her potting and growing at the weekends and this was proving to not be enough time.
At this point Yasmin, decided she had to take Fridays for her potting and planting at the farm and gave up some of her gardening jobs to free up time. Yasmin also decided it was time to do some market research and found that people were very drawn to strawberry and fruit picking and that there was extraordinarily little on offer for this in the area. She visited other fruit farms, attended various events and piece by piece her vision became clearer.
It was time to have a chat with her grandparents, and naturally once she talked through her vision, she had their full support.
After hours and hours of research into polytunnels, watering systems, bags and plants, Yasmin took a deep breath and at the age of 21 began to invest all of her hard-earned savings into her new and very exciting venture.
Starting any new business can be challenging, Yasmin met challenges she did not expect. One being how she was received as a young woman coming into the fruit farming industry. When trying to order fertiliser she was met with a very dismissive and almost mocking attitude. So, Yasmin asked her dad to call and he was met with a great deal more respect.
But nothing was going to deter this young woman from fulfilling her dream. So from January till April Yasmin, with the help of her dad, brother and granddad, took receipt of 7 tons of concrete and the weather was against them as they waded around in mud preparing to get the first polytunnel up and in place.
Then the beast from the east hit and the weather became bitter and everything froze, but at least they were not ankle deep in mud, so the work continued.
The frame was up, and the plastic arrived, but lifting 55 meters of plastic, 9 meters wide onto the frame in the slightest of breezes was an impossible task and the weather was not on her side.
Good Friday morning, Yasmin awoke to rain, yes nonstop rain but, no wind not a hint of a breeze! At last! The family gathered and with poles. grit and determination, the polytunnel finally had a cover. Absolutely soaked to the skin but delighted, the family put down the final anchors and retired for the day.
At this point Yasmin had stopped working for other people and had thrown herself full boar into preparing the tunnels for the arrival of the strawberry plants…all 7,000 of them. The irrigation system needed finishing, the tearoom needed to be decorated and surrounding areas needed work, including a cage over the blueberries. Yasmin worked tirelessly, knowing the summer was approaching and everything had to be ready.
As the weather warmed and things were finally coming together, Yasmin’s grandmother decided to open the camp site. They had an early booking from a family who were relatively local saying they wanted to camp for one night to try out a new tent.
That night, unbeknownst to Yasmin, this family drank to excess and in the early hours took metal poles and ran up and down the polytunnel punching large holes through plastic. Around 300 holes in total and the tunnel was all but destroyed.
After all the work and effort this was devastating, and the police were called but little was done. To make matters worse, the insurance only covered the frame and not the plastic. All the work and money that had gone into this venture and vandalism had almost snatched the dream away. But Yasmin is not a quitter and with the help of the family repaired each hole carefully and then decided to secure the polytunnel by putting large nets over it and securing them and it to the ground.
The summer came and the strawberries produced a wonderful crop and the people came too; they picked fruits though until September. It was good and despite the hard winter that had passed Yasmin still continued to look forward.
Yasmin was ready to take on the campsite in year two and worked again tirelessly through the winter and spring to make year two an even better year.
It was when she was at home one evening and the phone rang that she got an absolute surprise. Yasmin and Blagdon fruit farm had won the small business of the year award at Wessex FM’s local business awards!
Yasmin and her family were invited to a presentation evening at Kingston Maurward, the very place she had begun her journey! On top of this, Blagdon farm was nominated into the top five list of best cream teas in Dorset!
Things were finally on the up and the long hours and hard work were beginning to pay off. Yasmin was looking forward to preparing for year three. February year three, Yasmin is now 23 years old and looking forward to the best year yet. But there is talk of a virus… COVID-19. This was to be Yasmin’s greatest challenge yet.
Once again Yasmin prepares as best, she can. Cancelling half of the new strawberry plant order and transplanting older plants into the fields and then waits…just waits with the rest of the country.
Lockdown happens as COVID-19 sweeps the country; all businesses big and small brace themselves for the unknown. Closing their doors for an undetermined time. All struggling and all hoping that lockdown will lift, and things will return to some sort of normal. Yasmin was no different apart from her window of opportunity to make money was slipping away as her business is seasonal.
Finally, restrictions are eased and Blagdon farm opened its gates once again, with modifications like most and a request that masks are worn in the polytunnel. It’s at this time I called into Blagdon Farm to pick strawberries and Loganberries.
Greeted by Yasmin and her lovely cheerful smile as always, I stopped for just a moment and looked at this petite framed young woman who has just turned 24 and thought wow, she’s a pretty amazing young lady.
The strawberries were plump and the sweetest I’ve tasted, the setting quite idyllic. Hens and ducks and the most amazing cream teas were being offered to take away. And we did! What a better way to spend a morning or afternoon than visiting Blagdon fruit farm where you can enjoy picking lush fruit and, in my opinion, taste the best cream tea in Dorset!
Since my visit, Blagdon farm has started serving cream teas on site again! If you have never been to Blagdon farm, I really do recommend you do. You will be sure to return again and again!