As I stand in the corner of one of our fields in the blazing sun, watching a team planting summer cabbages, it seems hard to believe that just six weeks ago we were beginning to worry whether our first fields were going to dry out in time for us to get the first lettuce of the year in the ground.
The warm weather has brought spring on with a vengeance, and already a host of insects are emerging from winter dormancy. Stand by any healthy hedgerow and you’ll see nothing at first, before a flash of white or orange draws your eye to an orange-tip or peacock butterfly. Look closer and there’s a near-black Queen red-tailed bumblebee with its distinctive buff rear on a dandelion, swiftly followed by a hairy-footed flower bee.
As your eye catches on you can see movement everywhere – a seven-spot ladybird, bloody nosed beetles, and a number of hoverflies I couldn’t begin to identify (there are about 250 species in the UK).
All this richness bodes well for the summer: they all do their bit pollinating flowers and improving the soil, encouraging a habitat that will hopefully provide a host of beneficial insects (like the aphid-eating ladybirds and hoverfly larvae) to battle the less helpful ones when they inevitably make their presence known.
The ideal conditions have also meant that our first seasonal additions to the field teams have had a kind introduction to the realities of organic farming. We have more new faces than usual this year, as lockdown has prevented some of our regular team making it over from the continent. Initially concerned about a labour shortage, we have been inundated with applications from people whose lives have been thrown into turmoil by the pandemic.
The new recruits are quite green (most of our usual returnees have been coming over for years, and are old friends who know the job backwards), but I’m really pleased with how things are going so far. If you’d asked them a couple of months ago, I doubt many would have expressed a burning desire to plant and harvest vegetables, but they’ve got the right attitude and that is invaluable. Everyone seems happy to be here; we’ll see how things are after a week of wind and rain.