Keeping The Organic Faith

The longest day has passed and still we are waiting for the veg. I know these newsletters are becoming a liturgy of doom but it’s been a dreadful three months. The boxes are starting to improve a little but, with so many early crops failing or underperforming in cold and waterlogged soil, they are nowhere near as good as we would like by late June. Having to buy in veg to plug the gaps is frustrating and financially crippling.


At such times faith can waiver. Last week I was standing in a field of emerging flageolet beans on our farm in France; this is a new and exciting crop for us and I was hoping to share my enthusiasm and 20 tonnes of beans with you this winter. The seedling emergence was erratic with the first looking strong, but those that broke through later looking stunted with too many gaps down the rows. A bit of excavation revealed the problem to be hungry maggots of bean seed fly. As I tried to decide between spending the summer weeding and encouraging the survivors or cutting our losses, I could not help thinking that just a touch of insecticidal seed dressing would have offed those maggots and given us a perfect stand of beans. Just a few incy wincy grams of something nasty for tonnes of lovely beans; what could be wrong with such pragmatism?
Over the next few days it became evident that, even in this dreadful year, the beans that had been sown at the perfect depth (2cm) had mostly made it and looked like they would shrug off the predatory maggots. Those that had been sown deeper were too weak for the fight by the time they made it to the surface. In such trying times we must keep the faith, read the good book (the organic standards manual) and feed some maggots. Insecticide would just disguise poor farming; I used to think 4cm was the right sowing depth.


Guy Watson

observer food monthly awards - please vote for us
If you like the food we grow and sell here at Riverford or have a fondness for Guy’s missives, then please vote for us! www.guardian.co.uk/observer-food-monthly-awards.