As I write, our root harvesters are edging across some of our better drained ground, lifting parsnips and Jerusalem artichokes. High pressure has brought a week of sunshine and drying easterlies. By the time this arrives with you, I am hopeful heavier fields will have drained enough to allow us to lift the potatoes and beetroot that have been trapped in sodden ground since October. Our beloved purple sprouting broccoli has been gathering pace, with the later, higher yielding varieties starting to head. Hopefully it will be in most boxes most weeks for the next two months – enjoy it while it is here; summer varieties don’t taste as good. The moles are busy excavating; how did they survive the six foot of racing water last month? We are sowing the first spring-sown broad beans this week followed by the first potatoes, cabbage in two weeks and little gem. It is a joy to be starting anew as reminders of last year’s poor crops go under the plough and we feel the first teasing warmth from a sun climbing higher each day; hope springs eternal in the human breast. As mothers say of childbirth, farmers might say of 2012: ‘we are conditioned to forget’.
If Horsegate has shown us anything, it is that certification and form filling are poor substitutes for direct relationships in ensuring honesty in our food chain. Trust and credibility established over years of trading brings out the best in us; impersonal bureaucracy, the worst. Of course, this is easier if your trading partner is close.
We visit our banana growers in the Dominican Republic, but with 4000 miles of ocean, plus cultural and language barriers, we think we are better relying on the Fairtrade Foundation to ensure workers and growers are treated fairly. Hence, our bananas are Fairtrade certified. Working with Fyffes (who transport and ripen the bananas) to promote Fairtrade Fortnight, we will donate 20p from every bunch of bananas sold to the Send a Cow project we support in Uganda. That all sounds horribly convoluted, but getting morality and global trade in the same sentence will always be challenging.
To find out more about Send A Cow and the work they do to help African families learn how to grow enough food and look after livestock to eat, visit: www.riverford.co.uk