Our regional farms around the UK (and one in France) are our way of growing fruit and veg as close to your home as practical.
Guy Watson, Wash Farm, Devon
There is plenty to keep our field workers occupied over summer, with broad beans, carrots, basil, gooseberries, a few artichokes and cucumbers coming through and plenty more crops to follow. The Devon-grown new potatoes started with the Ostara variety, then Lady Crystal and the wonderful Charlotte. The dry weather is taking its toll though; where we have irrigation, the main crop potatoes are healthy, but beyond the reach of the pipes there’s a danger the tubers will never get to harvestable size.
Nigel Venni, Sacrewell Farm, Cambridgeshire
Nigel’s summer crops started well, although there were a disappointing number of strawberries due to the winter frosts. Gooseberries, however, are plentiful and the new season bunched carrots have been excellent. Planting also goes on at a pace: the first 30,000 leeks out of 300,000 recently went in, along with (in Nigel’s words), “cabbages for Christmas”. He had to be the first to mention Christmas – in summer. It’s been an exciting time for wildlife too, with one of our pickers finding a sparrowhawk perching on the kettle in the farm shed!
Peter + Jo-ann Richardson, Home Farm, North Yorkshire
Peter’s kohl rabi and summer cabbages took a beating in the recent winds, with the soil sandblasting a couple of sowings into obliteration. Every cloud has a silver lining though and the soil-laden winds destroyed about 80% of the weeds in the adjacent field of courgettes. Elsewhere, planting and weeding continue as normal, with broad beans, calabrese broccoli, spinach and chard well on their way.
Chris Wakefield, Upper Norton Farm, Hampshire
Our tomato grower has reported a particularly well-established crop this year, so look out for them in the boxes. Meanwhile, Chris and his team have planted the last of the chillies, so all the polytunnels are now full, growing parsley, chillies and basil. We’re planning a chilli event on Friday 19th August, where you’ll be able to harvest your own hot little numbers, feast on an organic picnic and watch our Riverford Cooks demonstrate some fiery dishes. Check our website for details.
Le Boutinard, France
This is the second year of crops coming from our farm in the French Vendée, to help us bridge the ‘hungry gap’ and keep your vegboxes full and interesting when very few crops are ready in the UK. While last year was a bit of a disaster thanks to inclement weather, inexperience and some bad luck, 2011 has started well. We brought in the best fennel harvest we’ve ever seen, along with excellent courgettes and bunched carrots. This year we also plan to trial an early, autumn-sown crop of carrots, with the aim of bridging the gap between our stored and bunched carrots next spring. It’s a bit of a risky strategy but we’re keen to avoid having to import them from further afield.