small cauliflower

Cauliflower is a crop that we used to grow for Waitrose and Sainsburys and I like to think that as a co-op we are pretty good at it. We had to be to survive on the prices they paid. It is a crop that requires a fertile soil, plenty of manure and good timing in controlling the first flush of weeds after planting. The very small cauliflowers in the boxes at the moment are coming from Soar Mill Cove, near Salcombe, where for the second year in a row, Mr Mather has made a bit of a pigs ear of it. It was very wet in July and August, which made weed control difficult, but everyone else managed. They taste fine, so to enable us to give him some sort of return for his efforts we are using them in the boxes and putting in two where they are very small. We will be back to larger heads by the end of the month.

Wading in treacle

You may be aware that the system of subsidies paid to European farmers is being changed under the "mid term review" to decouple payments from production, and ultimately, to insure that some environmental benefits are delivered for all that tax payers money. I think that most people agree that it will be a change for the better but the consultation and cogitation over the details have been going on for three years and still are not over. In the mean time all that most farmers can think about is how they can contort their businesses to maximise their slice of the cash, which will initially be distributed in proportion to historical receipt of subsidies. One of the intentions of the reforms was to enable British Agriculture to become more responsive to the marketplace, so it is unfortunate that any responsiveness has been frozen for three years. The culture of waiting for grants and subsidies, rather than getting on with growing food people want to buy, has a depressingly stultifying effect and robs our industry of its independence and dignity.

In the mean time our box scheme has been growing at a fantastic rate and, after two years of restraining our members, we are now looking for new members for our co-op and more land for vegetables. Several neighbours are on the verge of joining but everything is on hold while Defra slowly grind through their pathetic indecision over how it will all be implemented. It is all, to say the least, very frustrating.

Guy Watson