sustainable farming + celebrating asparagus

At the beginning of last week, a Ugandan farmer appeared on our doorstep. Charles Mulwana was trained by Send a Cow in 2004, and is now so involved with the charity’s work that he has come to Riverford to teach schoolchildren (and us) about sustainable agriculture.

Back in 2001 I took a two month sabbatical to visit farming friends in Kenya and Uganda; I wanted to see for myself whether organic agriculture could feed mouths where it really counted. After seeing some disappointing examples in Kenya, I was truly inspired by what I saw in Uganda. Here an organisation we had worked with for several years called the Kulika Trust was training and supporting farmers at a very local level. Central to their teaching was a highly intricate and knowledge-intensive system of mixed cropping, involving livestock and crops grown in multiple canopies, in a system as sympathetic to nature as we can get without reverting to being hunter-gatherers. I estimated the best examples to be twenty times more productive than the environmentally destructive monocultures next door.

Since then we have tried to support these projects through staff exchanges, sponsoring a training centre (the Kasengi Riverford Farm), by importing their vanilla and, over the last few years through our involvement with Send a Cow. Unfortunately our ‘no airfreight’ policy makes it hard to trade with a landlocked country, but the hope is that by opening up the channels of communication between our countries through activities like Charles’ visit, we can show that the farming toolkit is not limited to GM and sprays.

asparagus sunday – 22nd May, 1-4pm (free entry)
Come and join us for one of our favourite harvests. Asparagus has such a short season that you need to make the most of it whilst it is around, hence our little family-friendly event. Don your boots to take a look at our asparagus field whilst quizzing Home Farm’s owner Peter Richardson on the husbandry of this delicate veg, meet some of our producers, try our inventive asparagus dishes with the Riverford Cooks and fill your boots with our organic bar and BBQ, all to some great live music. You can even harvest your own bundle, have it cooked in the very field it was picked, or take it home for dinner.

Guy Watson from Riverford in Devon