Farmers Neil and Gary Farley from Devon will soon be harvesting root veg that will be eaten at Christmas.

Good fortune and a promising Christmas

Farming has always been challenging but we must try and stay focused on what we do well; growing root vegetables, writes grower Gary Farley

In the past few weeks, before the rain started, we took advantage of the lovely dry weather to harvest our crop of Miami and Natuna carrots – varieties easily recognisable for their wide, blunt ends. I was pleasantly surprised at how well they came out of the ground.

We consider ourselves very lucky to have such good crops in a year that’s been full of drought – our farm fortunately had rain on and off for almost a week in June, when a lot of other growers missed it. The potatoes actually seem to do better in a dry year compared to a wet one, because there is a lower risk of potato blight, a disease that thrives in wet and humid conditions; something I’m sure all the gardeners reading are no strangers to. One week you can have a nice-looking crop, and the next, the blight can ruin it. 

In the next few weeks, we will be harvesting the carrots for Riverford’s Christmas veg boxes. We’ve chosen a slow-growing variety called Nerac, which we’ve grown for years. It’s great for flavour, with a particularly crunchy, juicy texture, and it seems to store well for a long time too.

The parsnips are also looking promising this year, and we have started harvesting them in the last few weeks. We have a new variety called Pegasus, which tastes excellent and has beautifully smooth, white skin with good resistance to canker, a fungus that can discolour the crowns. 

One of the biggest problems recently has been, and is going to be, inflation on just about everything to do with the running of the business. Machinery seems to be particularly badly affected, as are fuel and electricity costs, even though we do have some solar panels to ease the burden. But what we will be really trying to avoid is cutting corners on the growing of our crops. This always leads to a compromise in quality and a loss of yield.

Farming has always been challenging, especially with what is going on in the world now, but we must try and stay focused on what we do well – which is growing organic root vegetables for Riverford and its customers.


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