Our story

Gro is produced by Boxford (Suffolk) Farms, a multi award-winning, family-owned enterprise which was established in 1938.  The farm grows apples, cherries, soft fruit, asparagus and rhubarb within the picturesque Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the Suffolk/Essex border.

An entrepreneurial family

We are proud to have been a family-owned business for over 80 years. It all began at Hill Farm near Boxford, Suffolk in 1938 with 120 acres of apples, grown by Devora Peake and her first husband Bernard Loshak. They ran the farm successfully during the war, and had two children, Myra and Jonathan. In 1948 Devora married her second husband, Bill Peake and they had three daughters, Susanna, Tamara and Carmella. 

Over the next 20 years or so Bill and Devora expanded the original farm size to around 900 acres.  During the 50s and 60s it was a mixed farm, with livestock and arable crops – but fruit was always the mainstay of the business. Devora and Bill were an amazing team with great ambitions and were pioneering entrepreneurs who diversified to succeed. They always passionately believed in the benefits and quality of their products and overcame many obstacles along the way to pursue their dreams – and this passion and determination has been inherited by the second and third generations of the family.

During the 1950s the Peakes were founder members of the Soil Association, and with the help of Lady Eve Balfour, even set up a school for organic husbandry on their farm for a few years. They were way ahead of their time and grew many organic crops – although following their ideals brought them close to ruin, as organic foods were little known then and the returns were very slim. They also produced their own “Peake’s Organic” brand of apple juice and stoneground flour. During the 60s the Peakes produced up to 100 lines of fresh products, including fruit, homemade cheeses, organic vegetables, poultry and flour, which they used to delivery several times a week to top London department stores and hotels, and to wholesalers and health food shops around the country.

Bill and Devora Peake in 1950
Devora receiving her MBE
Devora and Bill in orchard

The Copella story

When Britain decided to join the European Common Market in the late 60s, Bill and Devora realised that they would have to diversify from fruit growing to survive, as they knew that with the lowering of import tariffs the market would be flooded with European apples. So in true entrepreneurial spirit they saw an opportunity, borrowed the money from the banks and bought a second hand cider press.  Using mainly Cox’s Orange Pippin apples they developed a blend of apple juice in their farmhouse kitchen, and in 1969 they launched “Copella” freshly pressed apple juice. The now famous brand name was decided upon by the whole family over breakfast one morning – derived from the main apple variety used, COP and the name of the youngest daughter, Carmella.  

Copella quickly became the brand leader in the UK for freshly pressed fruit juice and Devora was later awarded an MBE in 1996 for her services to the fruit and fruit juice industries. The brand was then sold to Tropicana UK in 1997 but is still produced on the site at Boxford Farms today.

In fact it is the pomace, the bi product of Copella that is the main ingredient fed into the Anaerobic Digester on the farm which leads to the production of Gro fertiliser.

Boxford (Suffolk) Farms and Peake Fruit

Today the farm still specialises in growing fruit. The original range of apples, strawberries and raspberries has now been expanded to include blueberries, asparagus, cherries and rhubarb.

The Farm bought Peake Fruit (originally called Plantsman) in 1996 in Ardleigh. Susanna’s son Robert, a 3rd generation member of the family, joined the business in 2001 and is now the Managing Director of Peake Fruit which provides top and soft fruit cold storage and packing facilities as well as new direct routes to market for the farm’s produce. Peake Fruit also offers these services to other growers and importers.

In 2014, and again in 2020 the farm has invested in large areas of glasshouses and land to grow some of the earliest and latest strawberries and raspberries produced in the UK Season.

Apple picking at Boxford Farms
Farms Director Robert England (right) with Peake Fruit MD Robert Rendall in the cherry orchard
Glass house strawberries at Boxford Farms

In recognition of their ground-breaking innovative and outstanding growing techniques, under the management of Farms Director, Robert England, and his team, Boxford Suffolk Farms won the Top Fruit Grower of the Year Award in 2015 and the Soft Fruit Grower of the Year Award in 2018.

Bill died in 1979 aged only 60, and Devora in 1999, but Jonathan, Susanna, Tamara and Carmella started working in the businesses during the 70s and 80s and have continued and expanded their parents’ legacy. The Peake family was selected by the BBC and Sir John Harvey Jones to appear in his three TV “Troubleshooter” documentaries in the 1990s, featuring their Copella Fruit Juice business, Boxford (Suffolk) Farms and Stoke by Nayland Golf Club. Devora was awarded an MBE in 1996 in recognition of her “Excellent services to the fruit and fruit juice industries”.

The “Boxford Group” now includes three sister companies which together employ up to 600 staff; Boxford (Suffolk) Farms, Peake Fruit and Stoke by Nayland Hotel, Golf, Spa & Lodges. Susanna Rendall is the Group Managing Director, and her brother Jonathan Loshak, sisters Tamara Unwin and Carmella Meyer, and her son Robert are all Group Board directors and work in the business. 

Family directors (l to r) Carmella, Robert, Tamara, Jonathan and Susanna

They all strongly believe that their fantastic team of staff are the greatest asset to the business and consider them as extended members of the family. The history, culture, values and aspirations of the family are key features of the company’s staff induction process and substantial investment is made into training the teams at all levels.

In recognition of their commercial success and the initiatives that have been introduced and practised, such as writing a Family Constitution to address any potential issues and questions and holding regular Family Council meetings and Assemblies for all the generations – there are now five – the company has won two Family Business of the Year Awards.

Stoke by Nayland Hotel, Golf, Spa & Lodges

A couple of years after launching Copella, Bill and Devora identified another opportunity – a shortage of golf courses in East Anglia. So they further diversified their farming business in 1972, again with a loan from the bank, by converting 300 acres of their picturesque, undulating arable land near Stoke by Nayland into two beautiful championship golf courses, which are now considered to be among the finest in the East of England. Bill and Devora had to interview potential members in a temporary caravan “clubhouse” in the carpark whilst the building was under construction. Once completed the new clubhouse won a Times Architectural Award and Stoke by Nayland Golf Club was launched.

In 1999 the next generation saw the opportunity to maximise on the stunning, idyllic setting of the Golf Club and since then has expanded it substantially to include a hotel with 80 bedrooms, 5 luxury lodges, a large spa and fitness complex, 3 restaurants and a conference/banqueting centre. The venue is now known as Stoke by Nayland Hotel, Golf, Spa & Lodges. Over the years the venue has won various family business, leisure sector, and environmental awards and gained a national reputation for hosting many prestigious worldwide-televised golf events such as the European Senior Tour, European Challenge Tour and Sir Nick Faldo’s World Series.

Over quarter of a million visitors a year come from all over the UK to Stoke by Nayland for golf and spa breaks, weddings, reunions and relaxing escapes in beautiful Constable Country.

For more information about our facilities, details on special offers and to make bookings simply click here to visit Stoke by Nayland Resort. You can also call 01206 262836 or email sales@stokebynayland.com

Stoke by Nayland Hotel, Golf, Spa & Lodges
The pool at Stoke by Nayland Hotel
Apple Tree Lodges at Stoke by Nayland

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Boxford (suffolk) Farms Ltd, Keepers Lane, Leavenheath, Colchester CO6 4PZ
01206 264265 | info@buygro.co.uk