Oakcroft Organic Garden, Cheshire
Indian-born Mehr Fardoonji arrived at Oakcroft in 1962, starting the market garden from scratch and immediately setting about converting it to organic production.
“When I arrived it was just a field that had been used for cattle grazing. In the first year I planted a small crop of strawberries and it just went from there. Nobody really knew about organic then. I was selling produce as ‘organic’ but it meant nothing to most people.”
Over the years many people have volunteered at Oakcroft, from a few weeks to twelve months or more, and learnt all about organic market gardening.
Oakcroft comprises four acres – over half of which makes up the original highly productive organic market garden. A large variety of crops are grown in the open as well as protected in the polytunnel and in the two large mobile glasshouses, ingeniously built on runners, which can be moved after harvest for efficient crop rotation and pest management. The remainder is woodland, the house and its garden.
Mehr has recently appointed new tenants, three friends known locally as The Veg Men. Matt (the main grower), Sam (education and admin) and Tom (development). They also run an education scheme via their school veg box where pupils get access to their cookery workshops and in return help in developing a school veg patch. They are excited about the opportunities Oakcroft will offer.
The land at Oakcroft is very precious to Mehr. She wants it to remain organic forever, growing delicious fruit and vegetables for local people.