Well here we are…Ray’s Veg…
Ray’s stall is where I started this whole blogging journey, when I declared him as my Food Hero! Now I’ve had the pleasure of spending the morning down on the farm with Ray, Foxy and the rest of the team, digging a little deeper and finding out if Ray really is the hero I initially suspected him to be.
Born and raised locally, Ray grew up on a dairy farm with his folks. One would be forgiven for assuming that natural progression would see him continuing the family business, however Ray went on to study Microbiology and just to save you time, I’ve already Googled it for you; it means studying microbes (really small things that have long posh names) and their interaction with humans, animals, plants and the environment. Quite a thing hey? I was impressed!
Anyway, to cut a long story short, our Ray was sick of being stuck inside with stacks of paperwork, he wanted to get back out into the fresh air with Foxy (his adorable little dog who gave me ALOT of muddy love!) and get his hands dirty, so 10 years ago he rented a field and planted some veg.
Sounds dead simple doesn’t it?! I tell you what though I wouldn’t have the guts to just jack in the day job, but that’s why Ray’s a hero and I’m not I suppose. Ray’s ethos is a pretty humble one to be honest, using organic principles (I need to explain this properly to you in a minute) to grow healthy, affordable food. I just mentioned the ‘organic principles’ thing, what this means is that although there are no pesticides used; Ray’s veg is not sold with the organic title as it is not certified as such. A large contributor to the lack of certification are the animals that Ray keeps on his land, the pigs, chickens and ducks would all have to be certified in the same way, and for a single guy in a single field, the cost implication would result in the cost of Rays veg increasing, thus Ray’s initial motivation to provide affordable produce would be lost. I hope that I have explained this OK?!
After a few years of working the day job whilst also growing vegetables, and with the support of his family behind him, Ray eventually took the huge, brave steps to becoming a full time vegetable grower.
As seems to be a popular option these days, Ray runs a vegetable box scheme and with the backing of the local Health Visitors, has drop off points at children’s centres and youth clubs locally to Wiveliscombe and Wellington, enjoyed by many young families in the area and a valuable tool to encourage healthy eating in children and adults alike. Ray has a core of loyal customers at the markets he attends, not least of all Taunton Farmers Market, where he has held a stall for over seven years.
As well as a plethora of delightful looking vegetables, my favourite in particular being the romanesco, Ray boasts a handsome flock of 150 hens, their eggs are available on the market every week, an increasing flock of Cherry Valley Ducks also producing eggs, and a couple of pigs. Rays pigs are kept in his father’s name, having had pigs in the family as a child Ray is keen to keep up this family tradition, and in any case, they eat up all of the veg waste- happy pigs, happy Ray.
I think one of the unique things about Ray and the produce that he grows, is that he is much more about the winter veg than the summer crops. Because it really is just him with the occasional help in the field, although Ray does grow some summer vegetables, he just doesn’t have the time to tend his poly-tunnels, they do, however, come in very handy in the winter for the pigs and the chickens, consequently his egg production doesn’t slow down during the winter and all of the animals are happily out of the cold.
So in conclusion, is this guy here the hero that I thought he was…
Of course he is! Dropping veg boxes at childrens centres, putting his animals in the poly tunnels over winter, even cuddling his chickens, why wouldn’t you buy your winter veg from this guy? You know if Superman drove a tractor and wore yellow wellies…I’m just saying!
Ray… you’re still my first hero.
Don’t forget… Taunton Farmers Market every Thursday in the High Street in Taunton, come rain or shine.