Riverford Wicked Leeks

2011: counting our blessings

The year started very badly, but ended very well for us. My boys loved snowboarding behind the Landrover in snow so deep that they flew over the cabbages, but for me it was a different story. The coldest January in my 25 years as a grower wiped out many crops and set others back by months. In an attempt to keep the boxes full and balanced, while our own crops were frozen in the ground, we imported truckloads of broccoli and wiped out the year’s potential profit in our first month; it was a dreadful start.

Things looked better as we went into a fantastic spring; dry and sunny with no surprise frosts, making it ideal for planting and bringing the early crops on under fleece covers. It took a long time to get the frost out of the soil and raise the temperatures so our early crops were a little late and a few ran to seed prematurely, but generally the quality was excellent. By June we were getting worried about drought, but as the school holidays approached the heavens opened, delivering a deluge that lasted through July and August; great for our veg. The June and July plantings were well watered in and got off to a flying start, producing bumper crops and great quality. The remaining crops of leeks, purple sprouting broccoli, cabbage, kale and greens that will see us through to May are all looking fantastic. If there is one worry it is that they will mature too early, leaving us short in March and April. We enjoyed a wonderfully dry and sunny autumn, allowing us to bring in the potatoes, carrots, beets, squash and onions in perfect conditions, bringing a feeling of quiet confidence as we go into winter.

Farmers are generally a miserable bunch and seldom count their blessings, but I have never seen so many smiles as our co-op members wheel their veg into our barns. Of course none of it would be possible without you, our customers. It has been a tough time for organic growers generally but our sales have held up and even grown a little in recent months. We are truly grateful to you for sparing us the misery of flogging all that veg to Tesco et al. Long may we grow and eat together.

Guy Watson