An update by Ellen, FarmStart and the Plot coordinator
The last month felt transitional – from summer to autumn, from cucumbers to squash, and (somehow) from this year to next.
This month we are taking a moment to reflect on our journey, from Autumn 2020 to Autumn 2021, and then looking forward to the future we are creating.
Twelve months ago, we had a field (well, two fields!). We were hoping to recruit a lead grower to set up our site and, with funding from our new FoodFriends scheme, we had begun to do soil tests and some of the preparation for developing our two paddocks at Old Holly farm into a new market garden producing locally grown organic vegetables and herbs.
Last winter was spent crop and business planning with Tamsin, our new grower, and advertising and interviewing for our FarmStart scheme. By February, we had everything in place to start the transformation which began with a staff work-day digging out perennial weed roots in the freezing cold once we’d removed huge ice sheets from the plastic covering laid over the pasture.
And then the hard work really began. Making the permanent beds was a big task, along with seed planting and raising in our polytunnel at White Lund. Spring was wet, then cold. But by the end of May we started to have produce available and in June sales began!
It was exciting to see certified organic, locally grown veg for sale in places like Single Step in Lancaster and at Barton Grange farm shop near Garstang. We also started selling our veg and herbs directly to customers to pick up from Old Holly Farm, or from collection points in Lancaster. Our early crops included mange tout, french beans and of course, our beautiful organic mixed salad bags.
Over the summer months and into early Autumn, the crops in both our field site and the polytunnel took off with courgettes, tomatoes, basil, beans and chillis a-plenty, as well as kales, radish, turnips, spinach, chard, spring and salad onions, runner beans, kohl rabi, herbs and much else besides.
It felt like a moving moment, to, in early November, be able to provide local produce for a celebratory feast and seed swop at the Herbarium to thank our FoodFriends for all their support this year. We enjoyed a menu of squash, buttered leeks, wilted spinach and quinoa, served with organic salad leaves, beetroot houmous and various toppings, finishing with beetroot, rose and chocolate cake!
Looking forward, next year we aim to increase capacity, taking on more space at Old Holly farm and scope out some new sites and distribution mechanisms to enable us to increase supply of locally grown veg.
A huge thank you to everyone who has supported us this year – our FarmStarters and volunteers, our FoodFriends, Ian and Alison at Old Holly Farm and everyone who has bought produce from the Plot! We wish you a lovely Autumn and are looking forward to next growing season.