Buddy Mansfields working in his first grocers hero 2 2 c hero 2 2 d

In 1968, Frederick William ‘Buddy’ Mansfield bought a 20 acre smallholding near Faversham, Kent, sowing the seeds for what was to become the UK’s largest fruit growing, packing and storage operation.; An extraordinary story of ‘rags to riches’, driven by a man whose exceptional work ethic never left him.

Buddy Mansfield was instrumental in creating, what is today, the UK’s largest fruit growing, packing and storage operation. During a period when the UK was suffering a steep decline in the acreage of tree fruit grown in the U.K., Mansfields created a new optimism within the industry encouraging the introduction of modern varieties, raising of quality standards and preventing the apparently inevitable demise of the U.K. tree fruit industry.

Humble beginnings

Born one of eight in East London, early life for Buddy and his family was a struggle of survival. Raised in a single parent household after losing their father at an early age, all eight children were expected to help put food in the cupboards by manning their mothers’ small grocery store. At a time when a widowed woman had few legal rights and even less support, the family endured and thrived with each of the eight children discovering the importance of an assiduous work ethic. 

However, Buddy’s diligence went beyond his mothers’ store, soon revealing a remarkable aptitude in the classroom. His intellectual talents were unsurprisingly recognised and rewarded with a scholarship at an institution of higher education; yet, never one to shy away from duty, Buddy put his mothers desire for him to stay and help at home before a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Leaving home

Aged 19 with an urge to find his own feet as a man, Buddy desired to leave his childhood home for a wife and family- a right of passage for all young men at the time, except a strained mother and two younger siblings required this particular young man to stay put. Nonetheless, in 1942 Buddy left his home and the family business to embark on a new life with Margaret Robins, the new Mrs Frederick William Mansfield.

With the help and support of Margaret’s family, Buddy was able to establish a small greengrocer business in Romford; putting a lifetime of skills to good use. When working for his mother he learnt the ropes, but now Buddy was able to let his sharp business mind run free.  No longer limited, an eye for opportunity ensured expansion and success was on the horizon. Combining investment savvy and hard work, Buddy thought outside the box and moved in to wholesaling in order to supply his own retailing outlets.

A complete service in fresh produce begins

In 1968 he decided to purchase a smallholding in Dargate, Near Faversham in Kent with the purpose of growing his own produce. Within a few years Buddy once again saw an opportunity to extend the operation with the purchase of Broad Oak Farm, near Canterbury, in 1976. As the years went by, Buddy longed for the hustle and bustle of retailing and going back to his roots, established a quaint farm shop in Broad Oak.

However, even Buddy couldn't have predicted the popularity the shop encountered as word spread of the exceptional local produce on offer. Regular customers could be found in all surrounding towns and villages, with Christmas queues growing to over a mile long. So successful was this venture, that it not only supported, but enabled investment into the farming enterprise.

A family business

As the pattern of retailing in the UK began to morph, with the growth of the 'Big retailers' and the slow monopolisation of the industry, Mansfields looked to a future in farming. Now joined by his son Paul, the emphasis became on quality and variety, on progression in method and produce.

F W Mansfield & Son came into being in 1994 with the purchase of Middle Pett Farm and Nickle Farm as additions to the existing sites at Dargate and Broad Oak. Nickle Farm became the organisation’s Headquarters and as the business grew, a large investment was made into storage, grading, packing, as well as brand new offices for what is now the largest fruit growing, storage and packing operation in the UK.

Core values

Buddy never lost his strong work ethic and right into his 80’s he could be seen around the farms in his red pick-up truck or in the offices at Nickle helping out wherever he could. Popular with staff, he was always ready with a smile; keen to talk about the business he had grown and nurtured. His work ethic, support, inspiration and drive to provide produce of the highest quality were pivotal in taking what was a small farming business to one which now produces 25% of all the English Apples sold in UK Supermarkets.

In 1975 Buddy Mansfield lost his wife and in 2011 he sadly passed away himself. He is survived by a daughter, his son Paul, 5 grandchildren, and 3 great grandchildren.

Today Paul heads up the business which now grows over 25,000 tonnes of fruit each year across over 3,000 acres across Kent.