It’s been quite a while since my last update so I thought I’d take the time to let you know how we’ve been getting on.
Six months ago we took on our greenhouse and the ground was covered in snow, now the sun is out and the transformation quite something. There have been some seriously long days over the past few months but it’s safe to say that things are going fairly well.
Our goal this year was to start small and build a model that could be expanded next spring, we wanted to take on small number of customers, develop the seasonal salad we could offer and ensure that everyone we dealt with was happy.
And thus, we have six wholesale customers, a great salad product and so far all the feedback has been very positive.
That isn’t to say it has been easy and all smooth sailing.
The greenhouse was last used five or six years ago and the previous occupant grew plants on top of the soil, as a result the ground was so compacted it was like breaking through concrete. It makes me shudder to think of how many hours it took us to dig the new beds, every inch of ground had to be broken up before we could even consider getting a rotavator in there.
Those very early days would have been an awful lot harder had it not been for a succession of wonderful friends who came and helped out. We owe them all a massive thank you, because had it not been for them I’m sure we’d still be going at those beds.
Trying to grow salad in a greenhouse at the height of summer is not something any horticulturist would recommend and I knew from the moment we took on the greenhouse that summer would be a difficult time, but with no outdoor growing space available we had little option. As expected, some varieties have gone to seed in record time, which has reduced the planned weekly harvest. Along with this we are faced with smaller windows of time in which we can crop the salad as nothing can be done after eight in the morning and before seven at night.
Those long days are getting longer!
Despite this we are managing to keep our customers supplied and with a bit of luck we’ll get through the typically short British summer without too many hitches. It’s not something I’d do again and if we survive the year then there will be a lot more digging to be done as we’re close to arranging an outside growing space for next year.
Watch this space!
I hope this finds you all well and that you've been making the most of the snow we’ve been having.
Thought it was about time i gave you guys a bit of an update on how things are going up here in the North.
It’s been a busy few months and we are finally starting to make some headway with things.
When I got up here at the end of October I managed to hit the ground running, within a couple of days I had a job as a chef in a hotel in Chester and managed to get a room in an old farm house that had been repossessed by the bank. Its quite the pad; 5 rooms, fishing lake, paddock and tennis court, there is a swimming pool but sadly no water in it! All this for £200 a month, its a good deal but there have been enough maintenance problems to make it hard work.
During the first few weeks I mapped out all the local producers, growers, suppliers etc and headed out to visit them all. It was great to get out and see who was doing what and get a feel for where the gaps where. There is a small but engaging group of people who are passionate about food and about growing it, rearing it, making it and eating it.
The search for land was proving slow and for the first couple of months we looked at the option of buying land. This took us down an interesting path of attending numerous auctions, walking round fields in the driving rain and trying to rationalise that it was a good idea to spend 15-20k on a patch of grass. There was little suitable out there and the more we looked at the prospect of buying the less we liked the financial situation we would be in before we even got started. So we opted to slow things down and looked to rent some land, we had developed some contacts in the local area through meeting the local producers and felt it best to develop these relationships and make the most of the opportunities that would naturally come along.
Through Land share I met a family that has a smallholding and they gave us over a small patch of land that in previous years had been their veg patch. We took this on and saw it as an exercise in making friends and getting known in the local community.
Christmas came and went without any change in the situation, I was stuck in the hotel doing 70 hour weeks and there were some frustrations starting to grow.
A couple of weeks ago we suddenly turned the corner and now things are really flying. We have just taken on a rather substantial green house (110ft X 60ft) and are starting to work with 2 schools to develop ‘enrichment’ programs at their schools. These will see a small group of students work with us to grow fruit and veg at the school and to develop a small range of products (chutneys, sauces etc) that they will sell at school fairs. This gives us the opportunity to creat a education framework which uses a small growing space as a vehicel for education. This is something that can be offered to other schools next year and we will have a couple of case studies that will prove our track record.
So things are actually about to get going.
It has been a long journey to get to this point and the hard work is just about to start. It is both exciting and very, very daunting.
Big Friendly Matt.