Tag Archives: summer

the virtues of planning & being a little obsessive

Sowing of our autumn and winter crops is all done, bar a few late kale plants and spring greens. A very dry and hot July caused some anxiety over leeks, cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage planted beyond the reach of irrigation pipes. However in what is turning out to be a wonderful growing year, the rain came just in time and all crops are establishing well. Some growers had resorted to tanking water to their fields but even a ten tonne load is but a drop when the midday sun is beating down on ten acres of wilting cauliflower. It was enough to keep the plants alive (just), but it would have been a mere stay of execution had the rains not saved us. I struggle to remember when I have seen growers so happy or such fine crops of sugar snaps, cucumbers, sweetcorn, peppers and potatoes. The big question in such a good year is, will it all get eaten?

Left to me, crop planning used to be a largely intuitive process. I would do some cursory sums and consult the records of previous years, but when I got in the field with tractor and seed drill the area sown was ridiculously dependent on my mood. Such cavalier disregard for painstaking factual analysis is often typical of business founders; we are good at getting to roughly the right place swiftly, but it’s the obsessive types who achieve perfection.

Being right 80% of the time was good enough back then, but no longer; I have been pushed aside and crop planning is now a highly analytical process. Megabytes of spreadsheets lead from your (assumed) box preferences back through average yields, labour profiles, seed and plant orders down to an area to be planted of each crop, each week. The skills of our planning team also mean that even in this wonderful year when some crops are giving 50% over expectations, we don’t yet have the surpluses I expected. I suspect things will change and we may start urging you to eat more peas and corn fairly soon; I just hope you’re not too busy relaxing on the beach, pegging your tent down in a gale or tending your own garden to benefit from the bounty.

Guy Watson

Riverford Kids Summer Bake Off!

 

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Roll up your sleeves and get baking!

This summer holiday we’re hoping to encourage more children to don an apron and have a go at baking with our Riverford Kids Summer Bake Off. Each week on a Friday morning we’ll be sharing an easy-to-bake recipe for you to try in the kitchen.

We’re offering a different Riverford goodie bag as a prize each week, so if you’d like to enter, simply send us a picture of your tasty creations and we’ll enter you into our prize draw!

To take part:

Simply download our recipe card, cook up our weekly recipe and then send a photo of you and your baking efforts to us!

For more information visit our Riverford Kids Summer Bake Off page.

 

guy’s newsletter: a bee boom & beans with inner beauty

Never have I heard such buzzing as I encountered cycling to work this morning. Stopping to investigate the din, I found myself under an avenue of lime trees in full blossom. Each tree was alive with what must have been hundreds of thousands of industrious bees harvesting the nectar for which the tree is famous. The wonderful spectacle was made all the more remarkable because, until a few weeks ago, there was a marked and almost eerie absence of these pollinators.

High summer is upon us and we are as busy as those bees and almost as organised. Farming has seemed like a mug’s game for the past two years, but it suddenly feels so easy in this weather. Planting, weeding, picking and irrigating is all going like clockwork, and our confidence in our ability as growers is restored. The farm reservoir levels are dropping but with good reserves of moisture in the ground, it will be a while before we worry about drought.

The one crop that has suffered a little is our autumn-sown broad beans, where a fungal disease called chocolate spot has developed faster on the pods than we would like. However, it is what’s inside that counts and as the beans within remain clean and flavourful, we have put them in the boxes rather than sending them off to feed the cows or ploughing the crop back in. It should not be for long though; we are now moving into the spring-planted beans which normally produce cleaner, better filled pods anyway. At the same time we are starting to harvest sugar snap peas. They are painfully slow to pick, even with this year’s fine crop, but the crisp sweetness makes them well worth the effort. For the uninitiated, prepare them by simply removing the stem end and perhaps the tip too (ideally taking the string from the pod with them) and eat the whole thing, pod and all. They are particularly great raw, in stir fries or quickly blanched and dressed, but my best tip is just to make sure that you try them, as the season is tantalisingly short.

Guy