Riverford Wicked Leeks

giant cabbages + a growing business

This time last year we were experiencing temperatures as low as -15˚C and our crops were under a foot and a half of snow. We could barely make our way around the farm and the veg we’d spent all year nurturing was frozen into the ground. 2011 is a different picture to say the least; it’s now the beginning of December and we’ve barely had a proper frost to speak of yet. That’s not the Yorkshire weather I’ve come to know!

While the mild, dry autumn has made the weekly harvesting of our carrots and parsnips much easier this year, it’s had a negative impact on our Savoy cabbages. We planted 60,000 of them back in June, in four different varieties to give us a staggered harvest to see us through the winter and into March. With no cold snap to slow their growth, a fair few of the early cabbages have got ahead of themselves; they would almost fill up the vegboxes if we put them in. I’d say we’ve lost about 15-20% of the crop as they’ve got too big. They won’t go to waste though, we’ll plough them back into the field and it will boost the soil fertility for the next crop. It’s an expensive way of doing it though, but there you go, that’s farming for you. Thinking back to how we were feeling last year it seems daft that we are hoping for a chilly spell now, but if it stays this warm the rest of the Savoys will romp ahead too, causing problems for us in the new year.

Elsewhere on the farm we’ll be putting our wet garlic in later this week, all being well, but we’ve no purple sprouting broccoli or winter cauliflower to fret over this time around; it’ll be coming from our farms further south instead. I lost my nerve after the last two harsh winters wiped out the crop. They were just too vulnerable to the nasty frosts we seem to keep getting. The good news is that we’ve seen enough of a boost in vegbox sales over the past year to warrant us building a new fridge here at the packing barn. All the activity is a reassuring sight, and I’ve no doubt the extra space will come in handy during Christmas week, when it’ll be all hands on deck.

Peter Richardson