A personal account by Andi, FarmStart Trainee

We’re now six months in with our training as organic growers so some things – harvesting for the veg boxes, sowing new crops as old ones finish and are cleared, composting old plants – are becoming routine. The seasons are changing, though, and while working at Old Holly Farm we have seen the last of the swallows and martens (I last saw a marten on 13 September) while the end of the month has been glorious with skein after skein of wild geese flying and calling, mostly heading south-west, some of them nearly down at head height.

The weekly box scheme is now up to around 35 per week, a healthy increase on last year and earlier this year. It’s not too late to sign up – but the boxes are only one of the routes by which produce gets from the fields and the polytunnel to consumers.We sell direct to restaurants in Lancaster and to chefs for pop-up events. We sell to retailers; you’ll find our stuff in Single Step in Lancaster and at Barton Grange near Catterall, and when we have a lot of a crop available we sell wholesale to Organic North as well.

We also sell directly to customers through the Open Food Network (OFN) – a network of independent producers selling through a single portal. You can buy everything we have available or as little as you want. Delivery of your produce, as for the weekly boxes, is through our established network of pick-up points and home delivery where available.

We use our Open Food Network sales to take our training to a higher level. Each week, one FarmStarter takes responsibility for harvesting OFN produce, packing it and sorting it for delivery. We make sure we are up to speed on the finer points of harvesting and quality control and plan our day based on which plants are best harvested early. Then it’s heading up to the packing shed to weigh and bag the produce, making sure each package looks its best.

Working this way gives us an insight into how it would be to be working as a grower, responsible for every stage of the sales process, and gives a great feeling of achievement when, at the end of the afternoon, our fantastic produce is on the shelves ready to delight and nourish our customers. If you want to try buying direct from The Plot, go to OFN (openfoodnetwork.org.uk/the-plot-less-lancaster-district-cic/shop) and have a look. Orders are open from Monday to Wednesday, so if you are using the search function on the site be sure to tick ‘show closed shops’ the rest of the week.

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