I reckon this is about our 10th year of growing organic sweetcorn, and we’ve definitely learnt a few tips and tricks along the way. We cover the earlier stuff under fleece to give it the best start, and then you really do have to be pretty vigilant in terms of caterpillars, greenfly and aphids.
The other thing is weeds: sweetcorn doesn’t give you the groundcover that, once it is established, will prevent any more weeds coming through, so it can be difficult to control. On some crops, once we’ve prepared a seed bed, we wait for weeds to show and then burn them off with a ‘green burner’, or a flame weeder, as it’s sometimes called.
We’ve just started handpicking the first of this year’s corn crop and it’s looking good – I tried some last week and it was very sweet, it tastes delicious. Sweetcorn works quite well in our rotation, where effectively it’s our only cereal. We grow about 10 different crops organically, including sweetcorn, potatoes, onions, Tenderstem broccoli, cabbages, carrots, Butternut squash, green beans, radish, peas, beetroot, and quite a lot of parsley, which goes off to be dried.
My father moved to this farm in 1955, so I’m second generation. We now have around 520 acres of organic land, with some fertility building going on within that – it’s not all vegetables! We’re in Suffolk, about three or four miles away from the sea, so we tend not to get really bad frosts. In the summer this makes a big difference because our temperatures are lower than further inland so crops keep growing. We’re also classed as an ‘early’ part of the country in growing terms – we’re generally harvesting just after Cornwall when it comes to spuds and veg.
We started growing organically around the time of the financial crash, and after some consideration decided to stick with it. It’s been a pretty hard road, to be fair, but I’m surrounded by an excellent team. There is a huge amount of skill involved and if you’re not on the button, you get beaten by the bugs, beasties and weeds. Personally, I like the buzz of organic farming. Because it’s so labour intensive, we’ve got a huge team of people, so the whole place buzzes, especially when the seasonal pickers are here.