Ed’s Veg is a local supplier to Cowdray’s Farm Shop. Ed and April and their small team practice Agroecological farming and are dedicated growers who care passionately about the land, wildlife and great tasting produce. We met with them to find out more about life on their farm.
How do you run the farm?
We run the farm by making best use of nature’s balance and working with the native ecosystem as much as we can. We focus on constant improvement of plant and soil health through the use of compost, green manures and nectar rich planting to encourage biodiversity. By allowing a population of pests to exist within our farm system we support the balance of predators that keep them under control. For example, toads and beetles keep our slugs in check, spiders keep the black fly and aphids under control, and so on. We plant nectar rich green manures which have dual purpose, improving the soil and providing the nectar to attract and feed the natural predators to protect our crops.
Can you describe to me your typical day?
Our days are either harvest days or farming days
On a harvest day we would wake up around 4.30am, especially when the weather is going to be hot as its important to get out and start cutting the salad. We cut all the different salad leaves into crates with scissors. Salad has all got to be cut before 7am in the morning, otherwise the rising temperature will affect the quality of the leaves and it will start wilting.
Then around 9am our packing team come to the farm and they help us mix and bag the salad. We will then pick produce that is less heat sensitive like courgettes and beans. We pick everything on day of delivery, although we can sometimes pick cucumbers the night before if it’s the right conditions.
From about 2pm we head out to do our deliveries, delivering to Cowdray and out towards the coast on various restaurant deliveries ending up down at East Wittering. Every Tuesday we stay at the beach, have an ice cream, swim, a pint and chips, its like our holiday afternoon and we then head back to the farm about 8.30pm.
On farming days its either just April and me, or sometimes Will who helps us, weeding, pruning, sowing seeds, clearing and of course in the middle of the season things come up. Tools break, problems arise, so repairing equipment and of course irrigating, the jobs never end for us.
What are you currently growing?
Tomatoes cucumber, aubergines, French beans, broad beans, courgettes, a little bit of root veg, sometimes beetroot. We grow a huge variety of salad. We have four different types of brassica leaf including salad rocket, wild rocket and bulls blood which is a type of beetroot you grow just for the leaves. We grow Summer Purslane and a mix of six types of lettuce so the frilly type one, red and green cos, and an oak leaf one and then a Batavia type lettuce as well. We like the textures and colours and then we mix with an endive and later in the year a Raddicio. Salad has a long season for growing which starts in March and finishes in November.
When did you start growing?
I have been growing for 12 years – I started by helping my uncle on his farm in Devon. A lot of the practical skills I needed I got through joining a vintage tractor club and I also met as many old boys as I could in my area who had all farmed manually and worked on the land to learn from them. They farmed on old Massey Ferguson tractors and even used horses under fuel rationing and although they had seen chemical agriculture in farming arise and had embraced it, they still had the knowledge of the old farming ways.
What are the challenges you face in your business?
The biggest challenges are timing – getting the quantities right, and of course, the weather. Adaptability and resilience to climate change is the challenge that I think about long term. What will what happen as we get extreme weather conditions continuing. Climate change is going to be a big issue for farming.
Ideally we need that consistency that you can try to plan around, nice warm summers, but not heatwaves. Countries in the far north are much hotter than they should be right now and that’s pushing lower pressure downwards into Europe and we’re getting heavy rain through August this year while there are heatwaves and heat domes in other areas of the world which also affects our weather patterns and makes conditions harder to grow in.
The organic systems are more resilient to this as there is more diversity in a farm like ours, so we are in a good position.
Do you introduce new varieties into your farm?
We do like to introduce new varieties; we always have an eye on the new seeds and we save some of our own seeds. When we save our own seed we are saving the best for this particular piece of land and its these strategies that will help make us most adaptable, for example if we save our broad bean seed from the plants that do the best on this soil and in this condition after a few years we will end up with a specific variety that is good for this area.
What do you enjoy the most?
Nature and wildlife and being out early in the morning. It’s satisfying when it works, but can be soul destroying when it doesn’t.
Interesting facts about Ed’s Veg:
- 10,000-12,000 lettuces in the ground at any one time
- Ed’s Veg produces between 100-150 Kg salad leaves per week
- Produces 200-300 cucumbers a week
Interviewed by Sarah Emburey, Marketing DirectorBack to News