News from the farm

November’s grower profile:
Ian & Alison Samuel write…

This month we heard from Ian and Alison, founder members of the South Devon Organic Producers co-operative, who supply us with organic beef and a range of seasonal veg. Guy will be back with his normal newsletter next week.

On the farm at the moment, we have several thousand red cabbages in store that were picked a couple of weeks ago and will be trimmed back ready for the Christmas orders to ensure they don’t get too large. We usually do half and half to make sure we have the spread of availability, so the rest of the cabbages are still in the field ready to pick at the ideal size. At the moment we’re just finishing off picking the leeks, and it’s a good crop despite the difficulties of this summer.

The gang in the field today are all local students. We try to employ locally but you do have to be flexible as some of them only want to do a month, for example. Veg work is hard, so often it’s the outdoorsy people who stick it out; this year we’ve had a few surfers who have done well! We also have a gleaning team who come in from Totnes who will take the oversize cabbages or kale for their soup kitchens, so there isn’t much waste.

We’re not typical farmers as neither of us actually came from an agriculture background – we bought the farm in 1997 and soon after went along to a meeting when Guy was looking for new growers for Riverford. So much of agriculture today is about producing a commodity, so it’s nice to produce good quality vegetables and beef that people actually want. As producers, we like that customers can connect the end product back to us, compared to when you go into a supermarket and most of the food is faceless. Organic is also a way of doing things simply without relying on big multinational conglomerates to supply chemicals. It feels you’re in control of your own destiny.

We’re also very interested in the environment, and since taking on the farm we’ve planted a few copses and kept our hedges high. Last year we recorded 12 out of the 18 species of British bats, and we’ve had university students doing surveys on birds and small mammals. You think how much diversity is on this small farm, and then think you could fit the whole thing inside one field somewhere like Cambridgeshire. It makes us proud to be doing what we do.

11 responses to “News from the farm

  1. Hi

    Interested to hear about your storing of red cabbages. How do you ensure their nutritional content after being stored for so long? I bet there’s a whole science to it!


    • If you think about it, cabbages are all curled up tightly containing their store of food for next spring when they burst open and flower. They naturally keep a very long time if kept cool.

  2. A lovely read. Clearly a way of life rather than a job. No doubt hard… but full of satisfaction, I’ll bet.

  3. Keep going guys the world needs you !!earth and people healers thanķ you are 😊

  4. Congratulations! Very interesting bat news. I didn’t see one over my garden
    last summer in spite of good weather. Hopefully the local hedgehogs will be
    snuggled up in their usual winter quarters.
    Look forward to more news from you people .

  5. More power to your elbows! Very good to hear about the environmental value of your farming. I only wish there was more of it about.

  6. A great and uplifting read, your farm sounds idilic. Well done and keep up the good work.

  7. I enjoyed reading about your farm life as I often do. Noticing it again mentioned the difficulty of getting workers in the fields. A large part of me has wanted to give it a try, any advice on how to find vacancies on farms such as yours?
    I may crumble under the strain but will never know till I try. I long for the outdoors and physical work with nature.
    Living in Cornwall when I search I struggle to find veg picking/entry level roles, especially organic ones. Clearly missing a trick!

    Thanks for doing what you do.

    • Hi Mark, thanks for your compliments. Not sure where you are in Cornwall but there are several organic growers round Looe and St Dominic who will use seasonal labour. You might get some info on organic growers in your area from the soil association? Ian Samuel

  8. Great to hear that local students are being employed. I did fruit picking as a student and really enjoyed it.

  9. Thanks to Ian and Alison Samuels for their comments, fascinating and inspiring read, which confirms why I (and no doubt many others) want to support Riverford and its community. The section on the wildlife and diversity is heartening.

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