The Future of Growing

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Nathan shows us his pumpkin patch
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Troed Y Rhiw cows say hi
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The Farmacy farm shop

I’ve just spent a very enjoyable weekend at the Soil Association’s Future Growers‘ social event, based at Nathan Richard’s gorgeous organic farm in West Wales, Troed y Rhiw. As it’s right by the coast, I think we actually had slightly drier weather than those further inland; although, like most of the country, we stayed pretty wet all weekend, and my tent is still hanging up trying to dry out.

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Future Growers are introduced to Kate from Real Seeds
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Real Seeds Ben shows us how to pollinate squash
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Carrot seed heads drying in Real Seeds’ new barn
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Real Seeds’ amazing hoover-powered winnowing machine

After a interesting tour round Nathan’s place on Saturday (he sells direct from the farm from The Farmacy, has set up markets in local villages and towns, and runs a small box scheme – plus check out his holiday rentals on the farm, really beautiful); we headed to the Real Seed Company, and had a good look around their plot. It was so interesting so see the difference in emphasis compared to a veg business; seed heads are of course encouraged, with just a few select plants of each species and variety crammed in to the polytunnel and beds; it’s easy to forget that of course just a few plants yield a huge amount of seed.

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Anne & Peter explain their philosophy
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Compost turning in action

On the Sunday we headed to legendary Blaencamel, 30 minutes up the road in the Aeron valley; and were lucky enough to catch the famous composting system in action – watching the tractor turn the windrows of fresh material. Anne Evans & Peter Segger have grown veg here for decades; and have got their growing systems down to a fine art. Still they build more polytunnels, and explore new avenues, such as cut flowers (their sweet peas and carnations were just gorgeous).

 

Beautiful flowers in the new tunnels at Blaencamel
Beautiful flowers in the new tunnels at Blaencamel

Most of all, it was great to see so many new entrants into this essential ‘industry’ of growing food sustainably. Ideas and inspiration filled the conversation and the air; and everyone left Blaencamel to go home rather damp, but buzzing and warm with plans for the future.

 

Organic Growers’ Alliance

OGASignatureAt a great social weekend last weekend with the Soil Association’s Future Growers held at the lovely Troed y Rhiw organic farm in West Wales (more anon), I found myself once again singing the praises of the Organic Growers’ Alliance, especially the networking, online forum and indispensable Organic Grower magazine – written and managed on a voluntary basis, by growers for growers. It’s been essential to me while starting my business and learning more, and I’ve been encouraging anyone who’ll listen to join (only £35/year, and even less if you’re a student, trainee or apprentice!). So get involved, learn more, meet experts and get represented!