Working with your sibling isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But that’s exactly what our Devon neighbours and long-standing root veg growers Neil and Gary Farley do every day of the year, and with no small success.
The brothers, who picked up the prestigious Grower of the Year gong at Riverford’s 2019 supplier awards, have been farming organic root veg in Cullompton, north Devon, for over 20 years, and have it down to a fine art.
They’re particularly well-known for their fantastically floury King Edward potatoes, which threaten to overshadow the turkey at Christmas they’re so good, and recently began growing Chantenay carrots for the Riverford veg boxes for the first time.
“The ever-popular King Edward potatoes always take the prime spot on our farm. The FA Cup of roast dinners is Christmas, and it’s amazing to think that the King Edwards that we’ve grown are being eaten at that most important meal,” says Gary.
“Planting is one of our favourite parts of the year, there’s always a feeling of hope and optimism about what the next season will bring. After potatoes and carrots, parsnips are next on the agenda, then Jerusalem artichokes, which tend to look after themselves no matter what the conditions.”
Their father still has an active role on the farm at the age of 82, having purchased the farm in 1959. “We sometimes joke that although we run the farm, he hasn’t really given up being in charge. He’s definitely where we got our love of potato growing from. You have to love it to do the job, really,” adds Gary.
The brothers have an endearing habit of finishing off each other’s sentences, and Neil adds that he remembers growing up with potatoes, and helping to harvest them by hand.
Located on sandy land, the Farleys’ farm is perfect for potato growing – it’s their biggest crop at about 70 acres – followed by the root veg, beetroot and the artichokes.
Both brothers agree that one of the best parts of the job is when someone spots their names on the packs of potatoes, or say they’ve enjoyed some Farley-grown carrots. “It feels like farming with a bit of pride and like you’re part of the family,” says Neil.
Going forward, the brothers say their biggest challenge is climate change and they are always looking at new varieties to withstand extremes in the weather. With the dedication to their land, and a passion for the produce, it’s a family farm that is set to thrive for years to come.