Box Customers: You’re already helping to minimise food waste!

Written by Pete Richardson. Posted in Latest News

Have you been following Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall’s shocking food waste series on the BBC? Well, we’re proud to say that we don’t waste a thing here at Westmill.

For starters, we know that you don’t demand cosmetically perfect veg. Of course, this doesn’t mean we can offer you rubbish and expect to get away with it! We don’t–and we never will. But it does mean we can supply you with more ‘wonky’ veg than we could if we were supplying the supermarkets, who frequently reject an entire crop because it’s “too large” or “misshapen” (or if they’ve ordered too much from elsewhere and it’s not shifting off their shelves…).

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During picking and packing, we regularly collect up to 10-12 crates of waste veg material a week (depending on what we’re harvesting) from when we cut leafy tops or bedraggled outer leaves from, say, the leeks, caulis or cabbage before they go into your boxes, as well as the occasional veg that doesn’t meet our quality standards (perhaps it’s too ripe, pest damaged, etc.). At the end of every week, this waste gets mixed with local wood chip and organic cattle manure, before we “blend” it all in our antique muck spreader. We then cover it up to make sure everything gets composted evenly and to maintain a regular temperature (and to avoid valuable nutrients washing away). The result? After a month or three, we have “Pure Compost Gold”, as we call it, which we spread liberally in the poly-tunnels to produce our delicious tasting tomatoes spinach and salads!

Minimising food waste: Yet another reason to feel good about your Westmill organic veg box!

It’s Been A Steady Organic Summer…

Written by Pete Richardson. Posted in Latest News

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One of our large organic veg boxes–full of the tastes of summer!

After what’s been a relatively dry and settled summer, we’re in the middle of real deluge as I write and our poor WOOFer volunteers have had to dig out their wellies and coats from the cupboard once again.

But although we haven’t had the long sunny days I suspect most of you were hoping for, the summer has generally been a good one for us growers, with minimal weather extremes and no significant periods without rain (until now!). This makes for decent growing conditions, and I’ve definitely had fewer sleepless nights worrying about thirsty crops than I did last year! Most of the summer crops have fared well, particularly our staple field veg like new potatoes, salad onions and courgettes, as well as our favourite French and runner beans and trusty salads. And while some of the more exotic polytunnel crops could always do with more sunshine, the tomatoes are now entering their most prolific period, the sweetcorn is well on its way, and the sweet and chilli peppers are starting to redden up. We hope you’re enjoying the flavours of the summer–even if it doesn’t always feel like it outside!

Looking ahead, the major autumn and winter crops we sowed earlier in the year are also doing well, with parsnips, leeks, celeriac, beetroot, kales, cabbages, and onions thriving in the mild weather. I’m particularly glad to see the carrots coming through well after a shaky start when I had to re-drill some seed after having decided to sow a little too early, only to watch the weeds completely swamp the young seedlings. It’s always a risk when carrots and parsnips get off to such a slow start and can’t compete with the faster growing weeds. But they’re looking much better now. We’ve also recently sown a number of new varieties of salad leaves for the salad bags throughout the winter, including claytonia (miners lettuce), red mizuma, baby spinach, golden frills, rocket, endive, chicory, and many more… Looking forward to your feedback on these delicious and occasionally spicy leaves! The young salad plants will go in the tunnels once the summer lettuce are exhausted, ready to supply your boxes over the winter months.

As always, if you have any questions or comments–or recipes to share–please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We want you to be happy customers! You’ll find weekly updates and pics on our Facebook page. Happy cooking!

Meet Westmill Organics’ New Office Manager!

Written by Pete Richardson. Posted in Latest News

Meet Rebecca Beevor, who recently joined the Westmill Organics team as Office Manager!
Meet Rebecca Beevor, our new Office Manager

Rebecca Beevor, Westmill’s new Office Manager



Rebecca is responsible for Westmill’s administration and marketing, and will most likely be the person you speak to on the phone and via email. She has extensive administrative, business development and marketing experience, which we’re hoping to take full advantage of once she’s settled in! Rebecca lives locally with her husband and three-year-old daughter.

It’s great to have Rebecca on board, and I am sure you’ll all help make her feel at home!

Pete Richardson
Westmill Organics

Plastic bags in organic veg boxes?

Written by Pete Richardson. Posted in Latest News

We recently had a query regarding the use of plastic bags in our organic veg boxes. As the theory goes, if one customer is thinking it, you can bet there will be many others who feel the same, but haven’t posed the question. We always strive to get our salad leaves, lettuce and other tender crops (like kale) to customers in tip top condition. Unfortunately, I am afraid that nothing works as well as plastic.
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Are plastic bags appropriate for organic veg boxes?



Please don’t dismiss this as a flippant or thoughtless comment, particularly in light of the significant environmental challenges we all face. I’ve been growing organically for over 20 years and sustainable production is my passion. And I take my responsibility for the planet as seriously as I do my responsibility to my customers. But having spent months growing a crop with great attention to detail, I would be letting myself and my customers down if our boxes contained a bunch of wilted leaves or greens. No matter how sustainably they were produced, or how green the packaging, I suspect many customers would soon decide to go elsewhere.

Finding a suitable packaging material for tender leaf crops is a problem most (sustainably minded) growers face. We have tried all sorts of materials over the years. Paper is fine for spuds, but soon gets damp and absorbs moisture when used with leafy or wet crops. Unfortunately, biodegradable or compostable plastics are even worse and visibly suck moisture out of the salads within an hour or two—plus there is considerable evidence to suggest they are no more environmentally friendly in many respects than plastic. Guy Watson at Riverford Organics in Devon spent a great deal of time researching the use of plastic vs other materials, and follows the same policy as we do (read his position here).

These are complex issues that I have struggled with for over 20 years. We only source recycled plastic bags and we only use them for specific crops. We leave soil on certain crops like carrots to minimise moisture loss and thus avoid unnecessary packaging. We encourage our customers to recycle plastic bags themselves, but if recycling services are not available you can always pop the bags in your boxes and we will collect them and recycle them for you (we cannot reuse the bags for hygiene reasons). We try to collect and reuse our veg boxes as often as possible for exactly the same reasons. And it helps keep our costs (and our prices) down, too.

One of the reasons I’m an organic grower is because I believe it’s the most environmentally friendly way to produce food. If there was better solution that would also ensure your veg didn’t arrive wilted, we would already be using it. I know we don’t yet have the perfect system. But when you consider the whole picture—the significant benefits of organic production methods in terms of the environmental impact, the wildlife biodiversity benefits, the lower energy use, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and so on—and the need to provide you with nutritious, good-quality food, I believe we’re all making the right choices on this one.

Thank you again for raising the issue. Without wishing to sound too pretentious, transparency and honest debate are really important.

Pete Richardson

So long, Boann!

Written by Pete Richardson. Posted in Latest News, Uncategorized

Delivery van (and Boann)

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