innovation in the fields
It was ten years ago when I called a meeting in a local pub to discuss setting up a co-operative to grow and market organic vegetables on traditional, mixed, Devon family farms. It was an act of supreme arrogance to think that I had the technical and political skills to lead ten, quietly independent farmers (none of whom had grown veg commercially and only one was farming organically) through the trials and tribulations of organic conversion, learning all the necessary new skills, managing field staff and surviving the market place. After a couple of years (to my intense annoyance at the time, but subsequent relief ) I was voted off the board on account of my impatience and lack of people skills. Since then the co-op has progressed at a much slower, more cautious pace, which is certainly more appropriate to farmers and vegetable growing, though a bold and decisive approach was needed when it came to marketing. Without some of that boldness, the box scheme would have remained a distant dream and we would have all been left to languish in the grasp of the supermarkets.
Through the autumn we will be meeting each week on a different member