the virtues of planning & being a little obsessive

Sowing of our autumn and winter crops is all done, bar a few late kale plants and spring greens. A very dry and hot July caused some anxiety over leeks, cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage planted beyond the reach of irrigation pipes. However in what is turning out to be a wonderful growing year, the rain came just in time and all crops are establishing well. Some growers had resorted to tanking water to their fields but even a ten tonne load is but a drop when the midday sun is beating down on ten acres of wilting cauliflower. It was enough to keep the plants alive (just), but it would have been a mere stay of execution had the rains not saved us. I struggle to remember when I have seen growers so happy or such fine crops of sugar snaps, cucumbers, sweetcorn, peppers and potatoes. The big question in such a good year is, will it all get eaten? 

Left to me, crop planning used to be a largely intuitive process. I would do some cursory sums and consult the records of previous years, but when I got in the field with tractor and seed drill the area sown was ridiculously dependent on my mood. Such cavalier disregard for painstaking factual analysis is often typical of business founders; we are good at getting to roughly the right place swiftly, but it’s the obsessive types who achieve perfection. 

Being right 80% of the time was good enough back then, but no longer; I have been pushed aside and crop planning is now a highly analytical process. Megabytes of spreadsheets lead from your (assumed) box preferences back through average yields, labour profiles, seed and plant orders down to an area to be planted of each crop, each week. The skills of our planning team also mean that even in this wonderful year when some crops are giving 50% over expectations, we don’t yet have the surpluses I expected. I suspect things will change and we may start urging you to eat more peas and corn fairly soon; I just hope you’re not too busy relaxing on the beach, pegging your tent down in a gale or tending your own garden to benefit from the bounty. 

Guy Watson