Riverford Wicked Leeks

swede csi

We’ve been hit by a bit of a mystery here on the farm - almost six acres of swedes have vanished from under our noses. As farm manager here at Sacrewell, and having worked in agriculture since 1988, I’ve seen a fair amount of peculiar goings-on, but this has got to count among the most baffling! We planted the swede back in June, covering the beds in mesh to protect the emerging seedlings. When we took the covers off, the plants were looking good; sprouts of bright green lines stretching into the distance. A flush of weeds grew around them pretty quickly, so we sent some of our team in to clear them. As I stood looking at where they had weeded, I noticed something missing. It was patchy at first, just a few absent seedlings here and there along the drills, but within a couple of weeks, the whole lot had gone - over 400,000 plants - bar perhaps half an acre. 

It’s been a troublesome year for some of our other crops too; swiss chard, perpetual spinach and true spinach were lost to a spectacular blackfly attack earlier on in the summer, and we recently took a hit from ‘cutworm’ - caterpillars of the turnip moth and garden dart moth. This pest had feasted upon the roots and stems of our young cauliflower and calabrese broccoli, felling the crop at the base, like some miniature lumberjack. As we found some of the tubby caterpillars under the soil, we know this was the culprit for certain, but we’re still a little stumped by the swede mystery. Our best guess is that the cutworm got in there too, felling these more tender seedlings which then shrivelled in the heat, leaving nothing for us to find but bare soil.
However, your winter dinners will not be bereft of swede – we’ll source them from another organic grower. And to balance things out, we’ve had a really successful broad bean season, and our 8 acres of leeks and 30 acres of red and brown onions are looking very strong. I still count my blessings every morning as I drive the windy road into the farm; the views are glorious and wildlife is abundant. Only this week I saw some baby lapwings running around. It really was delightful, so while being organic means we get some unwanted wildlife, we get some very welcome visitors too!

Nigel Venni