Splashing through sodden ground in horizontal, driving rain to pick the first purple sprouting broccoli this week, I found that some plants in lower areas are starting to look sick. Standing in the quagmire, I remembered one of our growers advising me that ‘broccoli hates wet feet’ – so despite the gale, I am very glad our mid-winter crop is mostly on top of the hill. November brought 200mm of rain; eight times that of last November, and three times the year before. At least our reservoirs are filling up well, but most soils have been sodden for the latter half of the month. In all but the lightest, sandiest soils, the excess just can’t percolate downwards fast enough; it ends up filling the soil cavities and excluding the oxygen that healthy roots and soil life depend on.
But December is forecast to be dry, with some welcome light frost. With dropping temperatures, short days, and low light levels, our ‘long back end’ of autumn is finally drawing to a close, slowing the growth of those leafy brassicas and leeks that we had such a surplus of. We are over the cabbage and leek mountain – and we could not have done it without your help.
Everyone at Riverford, including our growers, has been happy to make a difference to those at the sharp end of our current cost-of-living crisis by harvesting our surplus veg and distributing it through the charity FareShare. It has been a challenge to coordinate harvesting labour, crates, and transport logistics with your donations and the demand from FareShare, but mostly it has worked well, and it definitely feels worth the effort.
A huge thank you to all who donated; because of your generosity, totalling over £20,000 so far, we have been able to harvest most of the excess veg and, with FareShare’s help, get it to food banks and others in need. Our growers are thankful too; not just for the money that allowed them to be paid in full, but also because everyone would have hated the waste.
We are now regrouping to work out how we can make sure any future gluts also go to people in need. Thank you as well to those who suggested that we should claim Gift Aid in the future – that is also something that we are now working on.