It’s all about holding your nerve during the precarious month of April – prudence versus impatience. We have to remind ourselves of the old country saying “ne’er cast a clout til may be out”, the “may” being referred to is hawthorn blossom, not the month. We also need to remember that when we push seedlings out of the greenhouse too early, into cold, sodden soil they are often out yielded by those planted into warmer soils.
Following our own advice all we have done in the field so far are some early potatoes, sharps express and milva. Last year we harvested the first of these on June 13th, a much anticipated harvest. We have also sewn some early carrots, laguna, basically the seed that was left over from our polly tunnel sewing.
Whilst the field is relatively barren the green house is groaning with green shoots. Today I sewed 2,700 seeds, winter salad leaves and brassicas; I just about managed to squeeze them onto the bench alongside the seeds sewn just over a month ago which will be planted in the polly tunnel next week. The salad leaves we are harvesting at the moment are so delicious, fresh, zingy and with real bite I think I love them most at the tail end of winter when roots are losing their charm and I crave the immediate vigour salad leaves bring.
At the weekend we will be welcoming Anna Vaandering, our intern from Holland who will be with us for six months, who is a horticultural student and she is required to spend hands on time on a holding in the UK. Great for us and just in time for carrot weeding and planting out!
On Saturday I attended The Organic Growers Alliance (OGA) AGM hosted by Stroud CSA (Community supported agriculture). I hot footed it straight from a very busy Stroud farmer’s market and have to confess that once I had settled http://www.cheapambienpriceonline.com into my chair I became very sleepy. However I did listen with a lot of interest to Rebecca Laughton of the Landworker’s alliance. She was talking about the research she is carrying out – How productive is your holding? ‘A matter of scale’ is a survey of the productivity of small scale farms (20ha or 50 acres and under). We all know that small farms are about much more than pure productivity but when arguing that they have a role to play in the future food security of the UK, the amount of food (and other goods) they produce is clearly a factor. This lack of data limits the ability of the Landworker’s alliance to campaign effectively for better support for us as small producers from Defra, so I shall be taking part in the survey.
We also heard that organic sales are “blossoming”. The catering market, in particular has seen a staggering 13.6% growth in the last year on the back of the success of the Soil Association Catering Mark which is rooted in a desire to improve the quality and sustainability of food in public institutions such as schools, hospitals and care homes. Horticulturally, direct sales is where the action is and small box schemes that had such a torrid time during the recession are beginning to bounce back. So good news at last! After the meeting there was a garden tour, I am a little embarrassed to admit that I stayed in the kitchen and caught up on gossip – an important part of these gatherings. We all then sat down to a delicious supper supplied by the CSA and beer from Stroud Brewery and the slightly more serious task of networking began. As ever a really lively, invigorating time, organic growers are certainly a radical bunch and their AGMs are pure entertainment. Finally got home about 11pm after leaving at 6am!