Guy’s news: Thanks to the weather, the ladybirds & you

As we approach the winter solstice and prepare to send out the last of this year’s 2.2 million veg and meat orders, I look back on the farming year with some satisfaction and gratitude. The winter has been exceptionally kind so far, with lots of dry weather for harvesting and enough cold to slow down crop growth. Despite a cold and wet early spring, it ended up being a good summer with just enough rain at the right times to grow some healthy (if not huge) crops with a marked absence of pests and disease, particularly in the west.

As we approach the winter solstice and prepare to send out the last of this year’s 2.2 million veg and meat orders, I look back on the farming year with some satisfaction and gratitude. The winter has been exceptionally kind so far, with lots of dry weather for harvesting and enough cold to slow down crop growth. Despite a cold and wet early spring, it ended up being a good summer with just enough rain at the right times to grow some healthy (if not huge) crops with a marked absence of pests and disease, particularly in the west.

Farmers in the west tend to look to the drier and flatter east of the country with some envy, but this year the grass was greener under our feet in Devon. A lot of that was down to ecology; as the years go by it is increasingly obvious that our smaller fields and ‘unproductive’ land, whether that’s abundant thick hedges, small areas of copse and woodland or big areas of permanent pasture, all contribute to the biological diversity, harbouring the predators and parasites which keep crop pests in check. In contrast to this, our growers in the flat east (and in the French Vendée) with their big fields have suffered a succession of invaders including diamondback moth and aphids, which has made growing harder this year and means that many will struggle to break even.

I am also hugely grateful to you, our customers; the fact that I say the same thing every year doesn’t make it any less true. Without your loyalty we couldn’t farm the way we do, couldn’t honour the agreed crop programmes and prices with other farmers, couldn’t look after our staff as well, and would be forced to make short term decisions which would not be best for the environment; and we would waste veg that was too small or had minor blemishes. The hidden cost of choice and responsiveness to customer needs is almost always borne by the growers, workers and the environment. Our position on this means we walk a fine line between arrogance and principle, but I hope we stay the right side. Your tolerance of what I know may seem like intransigence allows us to farm and trade honestly and for the long term. For that, staff, growers and I offer our heartfelt thanks. With the help of our vastly improved IT team, we might get a little more flexible in 2017…

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