April 2018 - News from the Fields

It started raining cats and dogs. 
And when the tracks were simple bogs. 
The average fall was well maintained. 
It rained and rained and rained.
It’s been a wet old spring and the fields at the farm are sodden. Mike, our tractor driver, can’t get onto the fields to start cultivating the land which means that our earliest plantings of hispi cabbages, calabrese and beetroot and the first sowings of coriander, peas, spinach, and early and main crop potatoes are later than planned. This means that our seed house is chock-a-block with baby plants waiting to go out. But there is nothing we can do and many farmers and growers are in the same situation. We need at least two, ideally three, dry days in a row for the land to be dry enough to work.
The wet weather is also making harvesting tricky. While most carrots at this time of year have been harvested back in the autumn and stored in a cold/humidity-controlled store, by March they often lose their flavour. We therefore leave some carrots unharvested in the field until March and April when the ground is drying out and we can go through with our undercutter to lift them and harvest them by hand, giving fresh and tasty carrots. That is in a normal year. This year we are having to fork them out due to the wet weather. If they are very muddy we are washing them. Unfortunately, several are rotting in the constantly wet soil and it is not easy to spot. Once washed they tend to deteriorate quickly, so ideally we tend to leave them to dry out and then brush off the soil. It is a time-consuming process!
But signs of spring are on the way – our chards and perpetual spinach have a new flush of growth and purple sprouting broccoli is flourishing in the warmer weather. Claire has been busy planting up the polytunnels with early lettuce, and the summer seedlings – cucumbers, courgettes, beans, spinach, basil etc – are all germinating in the seed house.



Cauliflower - Vegetable of the Month

As we work through the hungry gap, there are few crops that are keeping us going and cauliflowers are one of them. We plant a range of varieties with names like Medallion, Triumphant and Paciano. Each variety has been bred to be harvested at a certain time of year. We are currently harvesting a variety called Nomad and there are still a few more on their way, all of which were planted back in July ’17.

Cauliflowers can be steamed, fried, grated on salad, roasted, and the leaves can be eaten too. The pigeons have enjoyed nibbling on quite a few cauliflower leaves, but they seem uninterested in the best part. A while back a customer at the Exeter farmers market was saying how she grated the cauliflower and used it as part of a pizza dough. A great source of vitamin C, cauliflower also contains vitamin K and B vitamins, as well as various minerals including calcium, iron and potassium.
The plant is part of the Brassica oleracea species, which also includes kales, broccoli, cabbage and brussel sprouts. To make a clear distinction the cultivar is placed in the “Botrytis group”. The name “cauliflower” really just means “cabbage flower”.
They enjoy a rich, moist soil that receives lots of sun. One of the tricks to getting a good cauliflower is catching it at the correct time as it forms the curd. Too early and the head will be hard and small, but too late and it will be too open and soft, although still perfectly edible.
David Parry (Grower)
The Shillingford Team is Growing

Welcome to Joe, Drew and Jack who have joined the growing team for the summer season. Do say hello to them if you meet them at the Thursday Farmer's Market stall in Exeter.

Hello! I'm Joe, back at Shillingford for a second season after a few months break. My first task this year was to bring back some sunshine but I appear to have failed! When not out and about in the field, I can usually be found in the kitchen, on my bike or standing by the road with my thumbs out...

I started volunteering at Shillingford Organics shortly after Christmas and was fortunate enough to be taken on as a trainee grower in March. I’m really enjoying working outside (even in the recent rains) and seeing the changing seasons. Through March and now into April, it has been really noticeable how rapidly the days are lengthening and the sun is warming. I have learned a lot since starting at Shillingford and am looking forward to learning lots more through the coming months.

Hello! My name is Jack. I'm passionate about food, ecology, and a healthy human relationship with land. I've been working and volunteering at various farms, permaculture projects and social enterprises for about 7 years now. I am really excited to be part of the team at Shillingford tis year and hope to put a lot of joy and wellbeing into the growing to feed Exeter and the surrounding area really well!

And last but not least, Vitalis joins Irma in the packhouse, packing and delivers your orders each week. Welcome back Vitalis!

Farm School Spring Party - Sunday April 29th
We are celebrating the beginning of our third growing season at Farm School on Sunday April 29th  between 10-3 pm. During the day we will be running Farm School free taster sessions in the morning and in the afternoon, these activities will range from sowing, planting new potatoes, pond clearing, harvesting and tasting farm school crops. This event is free, however booking in advance is essential. There will be lunch and refreshments available on the day for a suggested donation to help us cover our costs. So looking forward to seeing you all!