a growing beauty + smiling farmers

Our new pride and joy is a three acre polytunnel. Gone are the days of pedestrian rotavators and rakes; we can get a full sized tractor in this beauty. It was completed last month, planted the next day and we are already picking from it. For the winter it is sown with salad leaves, and the investment will allow us to reduce imports without overdoing our hardier field veg in the boxes. Most of the leaves will have been cut four times by April, and will be replaced by tomatoes, basil and mini cucumbers for cropping through the summer.

The Dart Valley is incredibly beautiful and is designated an ëArea of Outstanding Natural Beautyí so the planners, quite rightly, gave us a grilling before agreeing that the need was convincing and the site as inconspicuous as possible. Beauty is largely subjective, often determined by the associations an image evokes. For me the tunnels conjure up a sympathetic picture of gentle productivity and good food, but I suspect my perspective is a little veg-centric. We are planting trees around them and I have made a promise to myself that there will never be the flapping plastic and careless abandonment so common in Spain.

The next question is whether to bring the strawberries under cover (as almost everyone else does). We have struggled for 20 years to grow them outside, have consistently lost money and recently I have started doubting that the flavour is any better anyway. It could be changing weather patterns or less tolerant customers, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to run a successful business when so often we are unable to deliver the crop we have promised you.

It has been a wonderful autumn; the carrots, potatoes, onions and squash are all in store and the autumn and winter crops are looking great and are bang on schedule. Iíve never seen so many smiles from growers as they drop their crops off in our yards. Itís partly down to a good year and partly down to the accumulated shared experience; 14 years on from 100 farmers meeting in a pub, the ones that founded our co-op have collectively become first rate organic growers. I know they would want me to thank you for your support in making it possible. Had we been supplying supermarkets, Iím not sure we would have made it through the learning years.   

Guy Watson