Richard Plowright - 30 November 2009
I have just put the phone down after a 40 minute conversation with my fellow vegetable grower John G. It’s Sunday morning and he is walking a field of some 50,000 Savoy cabbage, thinking that they are ready to cut and hoping he can sell them soon. We talk about vegetables and the conversation usually covers aspects of soils, growing, harvesting and marketing and because we can talk about vegetable growing forever our conversations rarely reach a conclusion.
Usually one of us will acknowledge that we have talked enough for one day with something like "I’d better let you get on" and the conversation will be paused. This time, somewhere near the end however, we touched on the heart of the matter agreeing that there is, and always will be more to learn.
In my last blog I wrote of the flat vegetable sales as the ‘fly in the ointment’ of our bountiful crops and tempted fate by claiming that we had not noticed much change in the market for organic vegetables. I now think it is more of a moth than a fly and I sense that it is starting to thrash about a bit. At the moment this means we have to work much harder to sell our vegetables. Prices are reducing and costs seem to be increasing so we will have to tighten our belts and inevitably do more work for less return. So if you are reading this, please remind your self that ‘you are what you eat’. Don’t cut back on the quality of your food. The environmental and health benefits of organic food have not gone away because of the recession. They are more important than ever.
Personally I would particularly like you to eat organic parsnips because having tried for several seasons to grow a moderate acreage I have finally succeeded just as the market for parsnips has declined. I had forgotten the second law of farming. The second law, which is really an extension of the first (If it can go wrong it will) states that just when you think everything is fine something unexpected will occur with catastrophic consequences. These laws might sound a bit grim to the uninitiated but they arise as a consequence of working with the natural world. This world is complex, unpredictable and for the most part, poorly understood.
My tractor returned with all of its 24 gears fully functional, just in time for me to broadcast green manure crops of mixed rye and vetch. In Somerset our warm, dry autumn finished abruptly about an hour after I had put my set of light drag harrows back in the shed. At about the same time, day became night and it has rained ever since.
A few weeks ago during breakfast Remke announced that she might be pregnant. "Oh" I said, trying to remain ‘low key,’ "who’s the father?" Well, now she is pregnant and it seems I am the father. "What about the vegetables" I enquired sensitively, "How will we manage without your free labour?" As the weeks have progressed Remke’s focus has naturally drifted and she is even taking time off work to attend pregnancy yoga. I ask you!
Joking apart 2010 will inevitably be different and we are in the process of planning for vegetable growing without the same input from Remke. 'They' say that to replace one family member you need two people, so somehow we will need to run a tighter ship.
Anyway I’d better go and cut some cauliflowers and grade some potatoes for Monday's orders.