It’s been far too long since I last visited one of our Market producers in part of my ‘Meet the Producers’ journey, but I’m back after a short break and excited to share my most recent adventure with you.
I spent a sunny morning down on Linscombe Farm with Helen, chatting about all things organic.
If I’m perfectly honest, and I may get shot down for saying it, I have always been a huge skeptic when it comes to ‘organic’ veg. My naive understanding was that organic veg was abit gnarly, and already partially eaten by mini-beasts. I could not have been more wrong, this produce is absolutely beautiful…so much so that I barely even had to edit my photos and not a mini-beast or slug hole in sight.
I’ve tried growing food at home, with the romantic notion that it will look like this and hard though I try, it never does. So my biggest question for Helen was simply ‘how?’ How on earth do you make vegetables look so huge and pretty and healthy, without using any fertiliser, any weed killer or any pesticides to keep the pests at bay?
Helens answer was simple; it all starts with the soil. This is Phil and Helen’s philosophy when it comes to organic farming, and it’s working pretty well I’d say. To elaborate, the theory is this: if the soil is well managed to maximise the nutrients within, the plants are strong and healthy, instead of feeding from a shallow layer of fertiliser on the top, the plant has to work harder to gain it’s nutrients from the rich soil beneath it. Consequently the crop is healthy, jam packed full of goodness and far better for the consumer. Its food with flavour, it’s not watery and bland, it’s happy veg for a happy belly.
Helen was kind enough to give me some demonstrations about how to weed organically, to be honest I never really knew how to use a hoe…are you picking up on the fact that I’m not that green fingered? But look how simple Helen makes it look, all you have to do is make sure that the crops are a hoe’s width apart and just run that little beauty right down between them…weeds be gone! Hoorah! No Weedol in sight.
These guys have been registered with the soil association, and certified organic for 20 years now, and they talk with such passion that it’s contagious. And the thing is that it doesn’t start and stop at the soil and the produce, it’s much more than that. The whole farm is carefully worked so as to be ecologically harmonious, sounds like such a ‘hippy’ thing to say but it’s the best way I can describe it really. Purposely grown hedges around the farm, not only an effective barrier and boundary, have encouraged a huge growth in birdlife on the farm. In fact a recent bird survey has shown that the birdlife on Linscombe farm has doubled in the last 10 years. It’s not just hedges that have helped this though, shortly after moving to the farm Phil decided to dig out a huge pond! Not a little pond like you might have in the garden for a handful of goldfish, not even a koi sized pond, but basically a lake, and naturally this has created an increase in the amount of thrushes and swallows on the farm. In fact the conservation efforts of Linscombe Farm won them a Gold award in 2011 from the Wildlife Trust for working for the benefit of wildlife and the natural environment, so big congratulations for that.
I must add at this point, that it isn’t just Helen and Phil up on the farm. They have a small crew of dedicated staff who help them to keep things ticking over. I met Nick and Carol who were eagerly picking the bountiful crops of beans and tomatoes, ready for the up-coming markets and box packing. Having these lovely girls helping them out with picking etc means that Phil and Helen can dedicate their time to growing, in fact a staggering 90% of the vegetable plants are grown on the farm from seed. Linscombe Farm have been attending Farmers Market for many years, in particular they have attended Taunton Farmers Market since 2011. They also run an organic veg box scheme in and around the Exeter area, so if you fancy a weekly delivery of delicious seasonal organic vegetables, hook up these guys on their website alternatively head over to the Taunton Farmers Market, all day on a Thursday come rain or shine, we’d love to see you there!