A personal account by Andy, a FarmStart trainee

August – a busy, at times chaotic but ultimately rewarding month, and a good time to pause and reflect on the summer so far. We’ve provided over 450 veg boxes which is a massive achievement and our summer crops are tasting very good. As FarmStarters, our new skills are constantly being honed through the daily cycle of harvesting, packing, sowing and maintenance (lots of weeding!).

The harvest has been all consuming and will continue until October. On-going tasks include dealing with gluts, or crop failure (thanks slugs), or trying to keep on top of crops before they bolt or go to seed (yes, I mean you, oak leaf lettuce). This month has also involved much tomato pruning; devising  seed saving devices for legumes we will dry for you to have next year; enjoying the simplicity of harvesting young brassicas (especially esme rocket); cooling off in front of water sprinklers; market testing our ring of fire chillies, and learning to look ahead. We’re already sowing crops that we will over-winter for your enjoyment next spring (kale, spring cabbages, leeks), as well as preparing the new paddocks for next year, by either covering them in crops (french beans, squash) or black plastic to keep the weeds down.

This summer has involved heat and slugs (and more slugs), and very little rain, all of which has made for challenging growing conditions. The word ‘unprecedented’ is being bandied about amongst growers. Rightly so. The highest temperatures on records; reservoirs at new lows; hosepipe bans enforced; wildfires endangering people and ecosystems; national health emergencies. In Lancashire, we’ve just about managed, but our climate is changing and as growers (and I include those growing in pots at home, in your garden or if you’re lucky, at an allotment), we need to take action in order to become more resilient.

Organic, regenerative principles need to be the foundation. We need to think holistically and more long-term. We need to start living with weeds, planing for polycultures, not monocultures and designing our spaces to protect our crops. At the Plot, we need shade and shelter from the brutish westerly winds, so we’ve planted fruit trees this year to provide this and have been inter-planting (provides shade, helps with weed burden and provides shade). We need to do much more if we’re to continue the food sovereignty journey. This means talking, thinking, challenging, planning and acting. 

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