The weather was fine for the 2021 Potato Harvest at Bennison Farm.
Lots of members came along to help bring in the potatoes and see the tractor in action!
Many hands made light of the work, and we were able to lay down a store of nearly three tonnes of tats. Plenty to keep us going through the winter, with several different varieties to add some diversity to our dishes. The potatoes grown this year were Twinner, Heidi (the red fleshed potato), Sarpo Axona, Carolus and Alouette. They even have a new home for the winter, in the form of an old lorry container.
We hope those of you who made it along had a good time – we certainly had one happy young member, who’s mum emailed us to say;
‘A wonderful morning that my 2 year old is still talking about!!! It was wonderful helping to harvest, seeing the tractor, and then best of all bring a few of these yummy spuds home. Thank you so very much’ – Abbie Cole
We’re already looking forward to next years harvest, and hope to see lots of you there!
1½l chicken or vegetable stock – if you cook your veg in water freeze it for risottos
400g broad beans Or what you have! [they tell you to skin them but see above]
1 onion , finely chopped
8 rashers bacon , about 200g , finely sliced
1 garlic clove , crushed
300g risotto rice
1 glass white wine
pecorino shaved or grated, to serve
Heat the stock in a pan and add the broad beans, cook for 3 minutes then scoop them out.
Melt a large knob of butter in a large pan and fry the onion and bacon for about 5 minutes until the onion is tender, add the garlic and cook for a minute. Stir in the rice, coating every grain in butter. Add the wine and stir until it has been absorbed, then add the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring until it has been absorbed but so that the risotto is still wet enough to just hold its shape. Season. Stir in another knob of butter and half of the broad beans.
Spoon the risotto into bowls and top with more broad beans and pecorino.
We had an enjoyable day at the summer social. A keen team of workers weeded the bulk of our parsnip crop which was very much in need of it. The children ran wild in our social area enjoying an impromptu obstacle course and some games organised by Wivenhoe Woodcraft Folk. We barbecued, shared food listened to music and toasted marshmallows on the fire. Much fun was had by all and it’s a very big thank you to the volunteers who made it all happen.
Meanwhile we are on tenterhooks at the farm waiting for our tractor to be fixed. We have a back log of very hungry looking brassica plants waiting to be planted out and what’s more the contractors are unable to come and plough for us as they are too busy! We will get the plants in by hook or by crook but it’s going to be a frantic few weeks as we’re close the end of the window for getting these plants in on time. Wish us luck!!!
We love the rain and consider ourselves lucky when we get it as we’re growing in the driest part of the country. The plants love it and so do the weeds but at least it makes them easier to pull out. We’ll be weeding carrots and onions this week and planting brussles sprouts (a bit late) if we can get the tractor (which is currently out of action) fixed. We’re very glad of the new potatoes. They had to be pulled by hand as we normally used a machine behind the tractor. The carrots are delicious and we have broad bean aplenty so nice heavy bags for the time being!
All land has now been ploughed and power harrowed ready for planting. We’ve planted beetroot, spinach and chard and are planting onions this week and potatoes too if we have time. We also have a delivery of plants due on Friday which we hope to plant next week – cabbages, broccoli, lettuce, pak choi, chinese cabbage, fennel, parsley and for the first time – celery. It’s a busy time but the weather has been on our side so far and we are on track. A drop of rain once we get things planted would be welcome.
We have already planted the polytunnels with fennel, lettuce, spring cabbage, pak choi, chinese cabbage and onions and have sown carrots. The tunnels are invaluable at this time of year to get things off to a head start and should produce crops a month ahead of those in the field.
It’s all hands on deck to get ready for the new season now. We are digging the last of the roots out of the old plots and clearing out the old salad plants from the polytunnel and preparing them for planting in the next couple of weeks. Our very old tractor is due back from the mechanics and should have a new lease of life having been fully service with various oil leeks fixed and the dodgy front steering overhauled. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to being able to drive in a straight line again! Once it’s back we’ll be spreading muck and then getting the contractors in to plough as soon as possible whilst the ground is dry.
Nest week we’ll be preparing the polytunnels for planting in the next few weeks. Our first early plants will be delivered at the beginning of March. There will be spring cabbage, lettuce, fennel, beetroot, spinach, chard, pakchoi and Chinese cabbage. We’ll also be sowing carrot, radish and mix salad leaves. It’s an exciting time of year and it always feel good to be getting ready for the new growing season.
Last week we harvested all the beetroot. We picked around 450kg which is less than we might have liked but good quality at least. This should be 8-9 weeks worth and will give it every three weeks or so. We currently trying to estimate harvests of of winter crops so see what we’ve got for the winter veg shares. Celeriac and jerusalem artichokes look good. Parsnips and cabbage look great. There’s plenty of kale and the leeks are reasonable so although it’s been a difficult growing season, we should have enough to make it through the Winter.
We had our annual Organic inspection last week by the Soil Association. It’s always a bit of a last dash to get my records in presentable in order to show the inspector but as usual I was able to answer all the questions and provide all the necessary information. Essentially it’s all about record keeping and traceability. They need to be able to trace a product back though the packing process, growing in the field, propagation as a seedling to the seed the compost it was grown in.
People often expect that it’s about testing my soil to check I’m not using chemicals but they don’t test the soil unless they suspect malpractice. If there was a suspicious lack of weeds that indicated the use of herbicide then they would take a soil sample for testing but it’s to expensive to test the soil of every Organic farm every year so they leave it to the experience and discretion of the inspectors to spot any signs which indicate deviation form the Organic standards.
We had minor noncompliance which is that we don’t label the veg bags to show that they are Organic and grown by us. Again it’s about traceability and it’s just a case of adding the correct information to the label that’s already on the bags. It’s good to know we are clear to sell our veg as Organic for another year
It’s been a tricky season with a wet and cold start followed by relentless sun! We’re doing our best to keep on top of the irrigation but there are things that have suffered – potatoes especially. The weather and some other factors have meant that there are a couple of crops that have failed or not done as well as normal this summer which makes it harder to keep the veg shares are varied as we would like. However we’ve had plenty of cucumbers and lettuce – great in this hot weather – and courgettes too – hopefully not too many for our members! We’re also looking forward to some fantastic tomatoes which are just getting going. We’re especially pleased with the flavour of the ‘bartelly’ cherry tomatoes we’ve grown for the first time.
This week we should finish planting the last of our main crops – cauliflower, kale, savoy cabbage and purple sprouting broccoli. Then we can focus our attention on weeding in the coming weeks. We’ll also be pulling onions to dry in the field – perfect conditions at the moment. We’re hoping for a reasonable harvest as onions are one of the least demanding when it come to water.