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Mixed farming helps beat Brexit uncertainty

This morning we started picking the purple sprouting broccoli, this afternoon we’ll move onto the Savoy cabbages, then it’s time for the caulis. It’s a daily juggling act to get the right number of pickers and crates in the right fields. I get what I call ‘veg stress’, which is usually to do with having not enough or too many staff, or transport logistics. Being down at Bigbury-on-Sea, a 30-minute

drive from the main road, we have to be efficient and make sure lorries are full. We love it though; it’s a family business, and everyone plays their part. Dad started growing cauliflowers years ago – he’s 74 now, and still around to help us out, even being tea boy for the pickers in the field. My daily routine is mostly fending the phone and scheduling staff, crates and transport. At 8am, I’ll usually be dealing with whatever crisis those three elements have flung up – then it’s time to put one daughter on the school bus and take one to pre-school. Next it’s a bit of housework and checking the bank to see if we can pay the bills. By then it’s time to see how many crates or pallets of veg we’ll be able to

deliver to Riverford that day, and start getting all the pickers in the right place. It’s a stressful job, but if you’re good at multi-tasking it’s fine; you’ve just got to have a smile on your face and laugh off the next calamity.

We’re one of the biggest cauliflower growers for Riverford, and usually start picking in September and go right through to April. We pick five days a week because cauliflowers are very sensitive – so yesterday was too soon, today is just right, but tomorrow will be too late and they’ll be too big. As soon as the caulis are cut, the sheep go in and graze off the field. These days, you can’t rely on the cattle and sheep to provide enough to be able to reinvest in the farm, and with the uncertainty of Brexit, if one thing goes then we’ve got to have something else in the pan. For us, veg picking goes on until the summer holidays, then it’s time for the campers and weddings. Having something else coming in just takes the stress out.

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Cathy Case

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