On the 16th of March 2020 in the space of a few days we became ‘key workers’. A term none of us had heard before. That morning, a group of us, recently enlarged by former staff returning to help out, stood in a strange, socially distanced circle, in the bright morning sun, as I described the task ahead. We agreed to increase our working hours, we hired new people, bought a third van and set about the job of helping to feed the 600 families which overnight had become our ward. We started with an air of quiet resilience, uncertain of what the future held. As we began to till the earth, I for one, hoped that I could stay healthy and do what I needed to do. In fact, we have not missed a beat since then. Every one of us has worked tirelessly and with huge commitment to fulfill our weekly work of growing, harvesting, grading, packing and delivering organic vegetables.
I am immensely proud of our staff and of what we have achieved. The team this year was: Ruth C., Ruth R., Tara, Julia, Owen, James W., James L., Steve, Jerry, Peter C. (1), Peter C. (2), Mirjam, Cali, Sam, Remke and myself.
The growing year followed the pattern of recent years where a very wet winter, which rotted our autumn planted broad beans, was followed by a dry spring, a mixed summer and a beautiful sunny autumn. For the third year in succession the autumn provided perfect onion drying conditions and the stored crop still shows little sign of deterioration. The soil conditions in early spring were some of the best I’ve known allowing me to produce perfect planting and drilling conditions. Unfortunately, the drought that followed in early summer meant that we had to irrigate transplants for the third year in succession. Irrigation has become essential but it is very time consuming, detracting from other tasks and never does the job of rain. Parsnip and carrot seed refused to germinate in the soil for a month, waiting for the first rain of summer.
Over the years we have developed a farming method which encourages huge plant diversity. We control weeds early in our crops’ growth but allow some weeds to grow to maturity, flower and set seed. I am convinced that these plants are vital for soil health, providing diverse living soil protection, feeding soil microbials and locking up carbon in their roots. We now know that the same weeds play a central role in whole farm biodiversity by creating diverse structural habitat and food for beneficial insects and seeds for birds. This was pointed out to us a few weeks ago when ecologist, Derek Gow (of beaver fame), visited the farm and was amazed by our large flocks of finches, the like of which he had not seen in the South West. It’s great to know that organic farming is encouraging biodiversity in this way.
As always with growing there have been ups and downs this year but once again we have produced some great vegetables. For the first time ever we harvested aubergine in December.
I would like to thank you all for your continuing support. Without you, we could not continue with the diversity of crops that we grow, with all the benefits for the environment which that brings. Thank you too for the many kind and supportive messages and cards that we have received. Not to mention lemon drizzle cake! These things make such a difference.
We wish you all a peaceful Christmas and New Year and look forward to supplying you with veg in the new year.