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Ploughing on towards spring

The climate around Sacrewell Farm, just north of Peterborough, is much drier than Devon – we only have around 22 inches of rain a year here, compared
to an average of 40 for Riverford’s growers in the south west. That means we grow slightly different things – shallow-rooted crops like onions and leeks tend
to do quite well, whereas swedes like a wetter climate. At the time of writing, we’ve had no rain for 22 days, which makes lovely weather for ploughing!

I have one tractor driver, Robin, who has been going out every day and prepping the ground ready for the spring crops. At the moment, we’re just
picking the last of the leeks and the Savoy cabbages, which are looking reasonably good, and we’ve got a few red cabbages and the green kale that are
still going too. We have had some white fly and aphid issues on the kale and spring greens recently, which is probably down to the heat we had last year, and
we could really do with a good frost to kill them off.

There aren’t many vegetable growers close to us as Cambridgeshire tends to be mainly large-scale arable farms, which can be a problem as they attract large flocks of pigeons who unfortunately also like eating brassicas. The land here is very flat, the lowest point of the farm is 15m above sea level and the highest is only 45m. It’s very different to the Devon farm – fields there are much more sloping, so we don’t have as many issues with soil erosion. The farm is only 10 years into being organic, so getting the good insects established out there and eating the pests is important.

My favourite part of the job is the variety in the number of crops we grow here – around 30 in total – and seeing them improve in quality every year. The farm was in a bit of a state when we took it over, but the soil is now in much better condition. It’s very rewarding to see the change.

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    Nigel Venni

    Nigel Venni is the farm manager at Sacrewell, a 500-acre organic farm and vegetable packing operation in Cambridgeshire owned by Riverford Organic Farmers. 

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