Bengrove Market Garden Smallholding
Finishing conversion this summer, Bengrove Market Garden, located in Shepton Mallet, North Somerset, grows fruit and vegetables sold locally within a 10-mile radius.
As well as everyday staples, Lou and Liam enjoy growing heritage vegetable varieties offering customers something a bit different. Ahead of the Countryside Stewardship's annual funding opening, we chatted to Liam about his experience of converting to organic with the Soil Association.
We have always grown organically but decided to get certified, in part, to gain trust from our customers. We wanted to be loud and proud about our produce but without certification we were only able to explain how we were growing without specifically using the word organic. Now we’re certified we can reassure our customers that we’re growing to the right standards.
How easy were the organic standards to follow?
We found the standards pretty straight forward, though it definitely helped that we took part in Soil Association’s Future Growers 2-year apprenticeship before taking the business on. Also, before we started Bengrove Market Garden we were head growers at Radford Mill Farm where we were already growing to organic standards.
"My biggest piece of advice for growers, thinking about conversion, would be to keep good records."
Did you feel you were supported through conversion?
Yes we did. Our Soil Association Certification Officer supported us and answered all of our questions. We probably pestered quite a lot in the beginning, but we were always made to feel like we could ask questions whenever we wanted to. Our Certification Officer was the one who gave us the good advice on keeping detailed records.
Why Soil Association over other certifying bodies?
We chose Soil Association because it’s the most recognised certifying body. I think there is a certain expectancy that being organic means being certified by Soil Association – it makes quite a big difference in public opinion. "When starting out we didn’t have much money so we made sure to compare the different certifiers, and the fees they were charging. After have a good look round we decided that the Soil Association was the best option for us!"
What have you focused on since conversion?
We are looking to make the veg box scheme our main source of income. Initially we committed to lots of farmers’ markets but this proved to be too time consuming for just two people, and meant that we didn’t have enough growing time. In the future we hope to diversify a little, making the business a bit more of a community resource offering training and courses.
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