Farmer Focus: New farmgate veg business gains momentum

I’ve read a few articles over the past month about farmers behaving badly in regards to drilling dates. With higher rainfall in October this year than last, with just under 200mm, I’m afraid the orthodoxy of the perfect autumn has to change.

I am fully aware of the risks regarding increased disease pressure, barley yellow dwarf virus, frit fly, insecticides exposure and resistance, lodging later in the year, and potential grassweeds.

However, it gets tricky to run a business with little to sell. All relevant precautions are taken in field/site selection, soil type, grassweed pressure, variety choice etc.

See also: Devon farmer’s low-cost way to drill high-yielding cereals

Our small vegetable enterprise has gained further momentum and planning permission is submitted for our first polytunnel to extend the growing season.

The site is due to grow to 2 acres. It has been in a 12-month high clover fertility building ley phase and is ready to come into production. 

We have had really encouraging dialogue with locals, who fully support what we are trying to create, and local markets.

Early engagement with environmental health and trading standards officers has been really helpful, as has the mentoring programme offered by the soil association.

Vegetable production with such high levels of flints and little mechanisation wouldn’t be a natural choice of enterprise, but the need for us to have a farmgate product so we can engage direct with the consumer has never been higher.

The first ewes are out on cover crops and to be joined by rams any day. We have our best ever cover crops this season after five years of trialling different mixtures and establishment techniques.

We will do our fresh weight and tissue analysis shortly to keep building our data on what nutrients we are capturing.

I am also working with Syed Shah from Tag, looking at our PV solar panel information from our grainstore roofs, and looking at what carbon our cover crops have fixed in a certain period.

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