Community Farm trials

The Community Farm - 16 July 2013

The trial site of the Community Farm at Chew Magna near Bristol is in the foot hills of the Mendips on a beautiful if somewhat exposed site overlooking Chew Valley Lake. Much of the produce grown is shared out to stakeholders and members, but there is also a large healthy wholesale side to the business which supplies several box schemes and large established outlets such as The Better Food Company set up by Phil Houghton.

The operation manager is Andy Dibben and the trial is being overlooked by John English.

Three crops are being trialled, Carrots, Parsnips and Brussels Sprouts.

Carrots were drilled on 8th April into 3 row beds with the middle row containing the trial:

Variety Emergence % Foliage Quality Control Comparison in Row
Vita Longa 80% Vigorous +2 (Yaya)
Chanteray Royal 80% Light Green +1 (Yaya)
Early Market 90% Light Green 0 (Yaya)
St Valery 90% Pale Green 0 (Yaya)
Amsterdam Maxi 90% Dark Green 0 (Purple Haze)

See below for photo of carrots – from left to right:
Yaya (control), Vita Longa, Chanteray Longa, Early Market, St Valery, Amsterdam Maxi.

On first inspection, the control Yaya appeared to show best early development.

The Parsnip trial, sown 9th April, was overrun with weeds due to delays in field operations caused by the early cold weather and then the sudden change to warm dry conditions, leading to difficult choices having to be made about priority jobs. The varieties planted were Student and Imperial Crown. Control varieties are Tender & True and Pixie. No comparisons were possible and it was uncertain whether the crops could be rescued.

Brussel Sprouts were sown in tunnels 2nd April all showing germination rates of between 80/90%. They were planted out on 23rd May, 2 rows per bed with 50cms between plants. Doric F1 and Nautic F1 are controls. Scores are 1-9, 9 being high. Row uniformity shows general impression of the stand of plants including number of gaps and early indication of potential yields.

Variety Height Uniformity Plants Uniformity Rows
Darkmar 21 10” 6 6
Evesham Special 12” 8 8
Sanda 9” 7.5 6.5
Red Bull 10” 6 7
Roodnerf 8” 6.5 7
Doric F1 8” 8.5 8.5
Nautic F1 8” 8 8

Both control F1s showed very good all round uniformity while Evesham Special stood out for height and uniformity.

The Community Farm is set in the Chew Valley between Bristol and Bath. The farm grows organic vegetables on 22 acres of land. It runs a vegetable box delivery service and wholesale business, but it's also a little bit different - the farm is owned by its members who officially took over the farming, box scheme and wholesale business as a not-for-profit organisation in April 2011.

The seed variety field lab is looking into Open Pollinated (OP) seed varieties available to non-organic growers and trialling them in organic systems with a view to either creating a demand for them organically or saving them on farm for use in subsequent years. The field lab is part of the Duchy Originals Future Farming Programme which is aiming to improve productivity, quality and environmental performance in organic and low-input agriculture.

Brussels sprouts.jpgJohn English, trial manager.jpgYaya - Vita Longa - Chanteray Royal - Early Market - St Valery - Amsterdam Maxi.jpg

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Prince of Wales's Charitable Foundation Open Pollinated Seeds

Moles Seeds The Real Seed Catalogue