Tag Archives: vendee

Here comes the sun(flowers)

sunflowers-blog1

Guy’s grown a huge crop of organic sunflowers on our farm in France; we’ve around 100,000 glorious heads and the crop has been thronging with bumblebees. No nasty chemicals here! There’s more wildlife benefits to come closer to home too…. Guy’s decided to give them away in most veg boxes, once the flowers have dried a little.

Here’s what he has to say about it:

Watching the Vendéen bird population feasting on my bowing sunflower heads and realising it was barely worth harvesting our measly two hectares for oil, I had the idea that you might like to use them as bird feeders. If you don’t have a garden or balcony please pass the sunflower on to someone else.

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How to hang your sunflower:
1. Use a pencil or biro to make a hole about 3cm from the rim
2. Thread a piece of string through
3. Hang it up with the seeds facing the side, so birds can access them easily, and high enough so cats can’t catch feeding birds
4. It may take a few days for English birds (unaccustomed to sunflowers) to catch on, but they will

Some may have a few seeds missing, as birds are already feasting on them in the field.

Finches, house sparrows and willow tits are partial. If you manage to get any photos of feasting birds, we would love to see them. Please share at www.facebook.com/riverford and www.twitter.com/riverford.

Tasting french carrots

carrot tastingWe’ve been tasting carrot varieties today, all grown on our French farm in the Vendee. Our stored Devon carrots last until the beginning of May and we have a 4-5 week gap when we import carrots to fill the gap before our Devon bunched carrots come into season. The plan is to bridge this gap with carrots from our French farm and as we tasted 8 varieities the decision was unanimous –  Namur is the best. So you’ll be seeing these in the boxes this time next year.

growing in France

Just back from France having finally completed the purchase of 80 cows, three tractors a large lake and 250 acres sandy in the Vendee; the plan being to grow veg and extend our seasons just four hours drive from and a ferry from us rather than going to Spain for it.

After fourteen months of buearocracy the Department has decided that we are fit to farm and the deal is done. Actually the local farming community has been very supportive and encouraging and Didier, the selling farmer, has acquired a new lease of life and decided to stay on as a partner.

We are already 14 months into the conversion so the first fields will be organic and ready for cropping next spring. We have already started some crop trials of lettuce, spinach and beans. Despite a cold winter the much higher light levels are plain to see in the vigorous growth. The only obvious problems are the wild boar – showing an unhelpful interest in the broad beans – and a plague of giant rats the size of a badger.

time to sow the broad beans

Ben worked all weekend and managed to get the last broad beans sown just before the rain came. The ground was still frozen in places making it a battle for the cultivators; not ideal sowing conditions and I would be feeling nervous were it not for the memory of our best broad bean crop ever being forced into a damp frosty seed bed. We now face the war of wits to keep the crows off the field until they are established.

Miserable in the fields this morning as we return to the normal warm, wet and muddy Devon winter. Beetroot bunches just too muddy to be acceptable for the boxes and all had to be hosed off in the yard. Very short of greens for the boxes; still feeling the effects of a poor growing year followed by a cold winter. Ongoing debate with the co-op members about what constitutes an acceptable green cabbage. Think we will agree to pay less and double up the small ones in the boxes rather than hope that they will grow on the field and risk losing them.

Off to France tomorrow to finalise the purchase of our farm in the Vendee and to look at the crop trials we are doing there. All being well we will be growing early crops there for the veg boxes next year. Didier, the retiring farmer, has become so enthused by the project that he is staying on as a partner.