Riverford Wicked Leeks

guy's newsletter: bucking cows, smoke-belching old timers & happy field workers

The muck is flying, the furrows are turning and every functioning tractor is hitched to something. Even the neglected and otherwise abandoned, smokebelching old timers get coaxed back to life to haul plants, seeds and crop covers to the fields.

With sun on their backs, our field workers once again consider themselves lucky; the hours are long as we struggle to catch up but everyone likes to see jobs done well. All of this is so much easier when the mud stops sticking to boots and wheels, and soil works easily into seedbeds that invite young plants to grow. Who wouldn’t be a farmer when the weather is with you.

In France we have finally planted the cabbage and kohl rabi (five weeks late), and are planting the last lettuce before moving on to courgettes, sweetcorn and turnips.Meanwhile in the polytunnels we are preparing to cut the second crop of lettuce before immediately replanting with peppers. A month ago with so little sunlight and fungal disease running rife I thought they were a write off; we lost a third but the survivors rallied remarkably as soon as the sun showed, and there will be a fair crop for your boxes over the next two weeks.

The signs are that it will be a long hungry gap after a warm, if wet, winter. Most of our leafy crops will finish early and a wet spring has delayed planting so there will be a shortage of green veg over the next two months. I can only lament the day last November when my sister’s cows broke through the fence to munch through our young spring greens. It has left a big hole in our plans, which the weather has conspired to make larger. Tomorrow, after four months indoors and a diet of ten tons of silage each (broken only by the occasional grade out banana), those cows will enjoy the taste of fresh grass. As the yard gates open even the older cows will skip and buck their way up the lane. Any remaining sombre dignity is abandoned as they get to the field and cannot decide whether to eat or charge around, throwing double footed kicks high in the air. All being well you’ll be able to enjoy the spectacle too as we plan to film the turnout, and share the video on our website and Facebook page.

Guy Watson