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Helping us through the Hungry Gap

Will it be too much, I thought, when I asked Paco, Sebastian, Pepe, Manuel, and our other Spanish growers and friends last spring if they would please plant more produce for us?

During the first lockdown, the request for our veg boxes rose considerably, and we took great care to keep them filled with seasonal veg. The growers had already had a very difficult start of the year with Covid, like all of us, but when we asked for more veg, they rose to the challenge. 

I was unsure how it would work with all the new restrictions and social distancing, but I shouldn’t have worried. Since then, they have coped with another two lockdowns, heavy rain in autumn, severe frost, and then in January the worst snowstorm for 100 years. Now, in March, two weeks of heavy rain and low light have slowed the growth of our Spanish courgettes and aubergines.

Meanwhile, the peppers have decided to stay green and won’t turn red until the sun smiles at them again. Our Spanish growers rely on a mild climate, as none of them work with heated glasshouses, so weather conditions have a very quick impact.

Purple asparagus
Organic purple asparagus is poised for harvest on Pepe Aguilera's farm near the Sierra Nevada. 

But still there is cause for optimism. As the Hungry Gap reaches the UK, over in Spain the first green and purple asparagus is popping up on Pepe’s farm near the Sierra Nevada, and Emilio’s fruit trees are blooming in Badajoz. To me, it’s a clear sign that spring is coming, and hopefully soon, a return to normal post-Covid life. This year our relationship with our Spanish friends and growers reached new heights.

It was confirmed once again that our relationship is far more than financial, and is based on commitment, transparency, and a common desire to face any challenge that might occur, together, as partners.

Soon, our Spanish vegetable growers in Andalucía will pass the baton onto our fruit growers for the summer, so that they can prepare for the next southern winter season; this normally starts at the end of October, when most of our UK summer vegetable crops come to an end.

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Flemming Andersen

Flemming Andersen is organic veg box company Riverford's man on the ground in Spain and Italy. As the UK’s Hungry Gap begins (after winter crops have ended, but before spring crops are ready), he works with the European growers who help keep the Riverford veg boxes colourful over March and April.

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