Riverford Wicked Leeks

sandblasted veg + oystercatchers ahoy

I know that farmers have a reputation for moaning, but I’m afraid I’m going to start this newsletter off with just that; if it’s not drought, it’s wind! We’ve been sowing successive crops of kohl rabi and summer cabbages for the past couple of months, but the first two batches have come to sticky end. The big winds we had two weeks ago whipped off the fleece that has been protecting the plants from pigeons, and it took a fair amount of time to retrieve the tangled 250 metre beast and weigh it back down in place. Meanwhile the sandy soil was whirled up in the wind and blasted the plants, which had a similar effect to constantly shooting them with shotgun pellets. The outcome is that they have been obliterated. However, every cloud has a silver lining, and in the adjacent field of courgettes the sandblasting destroyed about 80% of the weeds. The crop survived as it was a few days away from coming through, so I can’t complain too much. We’ve replanted the crops we lost but it’s a good demonstration of how we are at nature’s mercy.

Elsewhere, planting and weeding continue as normal. Our asparagus harvest is coming to an end this week, and it’s been outstanding – I’d estimate 20% over last year’s. Our Asparagus Sunday was a big success too, with around 300 people attending despite the wind! The broad beans will be ready imminently, with broccoli, spinach and chard not far behind. I’d say the new potatoes and bunched carrots are about 3 weeks away. On that note, I’m pleased to report that our potato prices are coming down this week as the main crop spuds are coming in from our other growers: 1kg bags are dropping by 50p to £1.95, and 2kg by 80p to £2.95. We have to take care when we’re weeding the potatoes mind, as the dry weather has produced a bumper crop of a different kind: lapwing chicks! The birds love nesting on the potato ridges, among the plants themselves. I guess it’s quite cosy and sheltered in there with all that foliage. We’ve got a good few pairs of oystercatchers in there too; I doubt they come across many oysters though. It all means we have to keep a sharp eye out so we don’t disturb the nests, but it’s no great hardship – we like to do our bit.

Peter Richardson