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Guy's news: asparagus, optimism & relief

A cool May has restrained the flowering urges of our purple sprouting broccoli, leeks and cauliflower, giving us the bonus of an extra two to three weeks’ picking. With the barns empty and the last of 2012’s crops ploughed over, we can finally say our annus horribilis is over. Hurrah! I haven’t been happier to see a plough in a field since I ploughed in my first disastrous strawberry crop back in the 80s. I remember whooping from the tractor seat. 

Looking forward, most of spring has gone well. There has been enough dry weather to create good seed beds and plant in the right conditions, with rain for germination and establishment. The persistent cold means that most crops are running two to four weeks late, but the prevailing feeling among growers is one of optimism: a strong, healthy crop is the best way to banish memories of last year. This week sees the first Devon-grown little gems, wet garlic, pak choi, salad onions and salad leaves in the boxes. The cold has meant a slow start to our asparagus and rhubarb season. Asparagus is a hard crop for organic growers: all the weeding has to be paid for from a very short harvesting season, which ends in late June to allow the plant to recharge its roots. Two weeks lost at the beginning will be hard to make up. Rhubarb loves cool, damp weather and we are now into the thick of the crop. It will be available to add to your order and occasionally in the boxes through to the end of July.

As I type, my son is grilling me about us pre-empting the UK season with asparagus from Pepe, our grower near Granada in Spain. When did this seventeen year old become such a purist? Logically, based on carbon footprint, I have no trouble defending working with Pepe. He is a small, highly committed grower, cultivating the same fields farmed by his family for generations, which are irrigated using snow melted from the mountain surrounding his farm. We like him and the quality is always good, but is there something iconic about English asparagus? Should we make you wait? 

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    Guy Singh-Watson

    Self-confessed veg nerd, Guy Singh-Watson has over the last 30 years taken Riverford from one man and a wheelbarrow delivering homegrown organic veg to friends, to a national veg box scheme delivering to around 50,000 customers a week. Guy is an inspirational, passionate, opinionated and admired figure in the world of organic farming, who still spends more time in the fields than in the boardroom. Twice awarded BBC Radio 4 Farmer of the Year, Guy is passionate about sharing with others the organic farming and business knowledge he has accumulated over the last three decades. His video rants have provided a powerful platform to do this, with a video on pesticides going viral on Facebook to reach 5.6 million views and 91,000 shares. His weekly veg box newsletters connect customers to the farm with refreshingly honest accounts of the trials and tribulations of producing organic food, and the occasional rant about farming, ethical and business issues he feels strongly about.  

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