Posts Tagged ‘Blog’

Don’t Drive on the Grass!

Written by Pete Richardson. Posted in Latest News

IMG_3517Lots of cold hands out here today, picking fresh organic veg for this week’s boxes! With the challenges of mud and frost (and occasionally snow and ice!), it’s fair to day that getting veg out of the ground at this time of year is not always easy. But, thankfully, we’re not underwater like some unfortunate growers we know.

Although the mud (and cold and rain!) can be a bit of a pain, a real concern for organic farmers and growers at this time of year is the risk of soil compaction.

Excessive trampling the land and (particularly) driving heavy machinery like tractors over the soil is a real no-no when the land is so wet. It destroys the soil’s porous structure, limits air and water penetration, prohibits root penetration, and generally plays havoc with the delicate soil ecosystem–leading to limited availability of plant nutrients, greater disease risk, reduced crop yields, and so on.

While we have to walk the fields in order to harvest the crops, we NEVER drive machinery on the veg fields and always keep to hard roads and existing tracks when bringing the organic veg in from the fields. Unfortunately, the gateways and tracks (pictured) inevitably suffer in the wet…!

Pete Richardson

It’s the Hungry Gap!

Written by Pete Richardson. Posted in Latest News

This is such an exciting time of year for organic growers: All the new crops are being propagated in the polytunnels or sown directly in the field, and everything is starting to come to life as the sun warms the soil.

Organic spinach--Westmill OrganicsBroad beans, onions and potatoes have already gone in directly into the ploughed fields, and many hundreds of tomatoes and peppers have been potted on–we keep them warm at night with fleece and bubble-wrap blankets in case of a late frost! The baby bunched carrots are coming on a pace in the tunnel, as are spinach and chard. By June, we’ll have sown many hundreds of thousands of seeds for a non-stop supply of delicious organic vegetables for your boxes: 100,000 carrots and leeks, 30,000 parsnips, 30,000 caulis, calabrese, and cabbage, as well as beans, peas, onions, squash, courgettes, and so on. But all this work is in preparation for boxes later in the year.Organic seedlings -- Westmill Organics

For although the sun is finally starting to shine, and the countryside is stirring into life, we are now smack bang in the middle of the “hungry gap” in the UK. It’s the name for the period from around late March to May when all the winter crops are either starting to dwindle (or are reaching the end of their shelf lives), yet the new crops we have sown are not yet ready. For UK growers, the next few weeks can be a little frustrating, to say the least! For the die-hard seasonal fans out there, we are proud to have been supplying so much of our own produce for so long. At times in the last month the small boxes have had 100% of our own veg.

Pete - polytunnelBut while many of you would no doubt be prepared to swallow the “seasonal sword” and simply dine on purple sprouting broccoli and leeks and salad leaves grown at Westmill, our priority is to offer you with the best tasting, most flavoursome veg we can, and to provide sufficient variety in your boxes to keep you happy! So you will see a little less of our own veg in your box between now and June. At this time of year we increasingly rely on our trusted organic wholesaler in Hereford, and other local organic growers who have a surplus, to top up what we cannot supply ourselves. But come June, as the season turns again, we will an abundance of our own delicious organic crops and find ourselves struggling to fit it all into your boxes. And looking at the fields and tunnels, I can promise you this summer will be very tasty!

Organic strawberries – in time for the Wimbledon finals weekend!

Written by Pete Richardson. Posted in Latest News

Just a quick update to let you all know that we should have our first organic strawberries ready for your boxes next week – perfect for the Wimbledon finals weekend!

Don't worry - the strawberries you'll receive will be slightly riper than these!

Don’t worry – the strawberries you’ll receive next week will be slightly riper than these!

We grow a variety called ‘Elan’, mainly because of its superb flavour, but also because it’s an ever-bearer – meaning the plants should (hopefully) continue to provide a steady crop through to late September. We think – ok, we KNOW! – you’ll notice a big difference between our organic strawberries and those you’ll find on the supermarket shelves. Supermarket buyers generally instruct their growers to use only specific varieties which have characteristics that make them more suitable for transporting via lorries and lengthy storage, rather than for their taste. As a result, they’re almost inevitably rather bland and ‘robust’ in texture! Our fruits may not last quite as long before they start to perish, but the flavour is just brilliant. Plus you can rest assured that, as we’re Soil Association-certified, we haven’t used any chemical insecticides whatsoever. Not to mention the many miles that supermarket strawberries will have travel to get to stores across the country…

Westmill Organics strawberries are picked and on your plate with a day or so, and travel from our farm to your door. A quick wash and they’re delicious as they are – or with a splash of organic cream and a dusting of sugar…

Westmill Organics is Proud to Supply Boris Johnson-Backed London Food Initiative With Fresh Organic Vegetables!

Written by Pete Richardson. Posted in Latest News

Boris_Johnson_-opening_bell_at_NASDAQ-14Sept2009-3c_cropped

Love him or hate him, London Mayor Boris Johnson is backing a new local food initiative in north-west London – and Westmill Organics is a key supplier.

Some great news: we’ve been selected as suppliers for an exciting new pilot food initiative to develop the independent food sector in and around London, which was backed by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, last week!

As part of a new agreement, we’re going to supply seasonal organic vegetables to the new Field to Fork Organics Co-operative – a community-run fruit and veg box scheme which sits at the very heart of an exciting new food initiative in London announced by Boris.

The Field to Fork Organics Co-operative, which officially launches on 4th July in north-west London, is going to buy fresh organic products directly from local farmers and community food growers, such as Westmill Organics, and sell them at an affordable price to customers via cafés, schools and independent shops. So each week we’re going to deliver a range of Soil Association-certified organic vegetables to the Field to Fork Organics Co-operative, helping to supply nutritious, affordable, fresh produce to communities in the Kensal, Kilburn, Willesden, Portobello, and Queens Park areas.

We’re really proud to have been selected. The London pilot seeks to demonstrate that innovative food businesses can be profitable, while also striving to regenerate high streets and improving access to healthy, affordable, locally produced food. By taking part in this initiative, we also hope to show that this model of linking urban communities with local farmers and growers can be replicated in other cities across the UK, such as Swindon and Oxford. Not only do I think this model can really work, but I believe that re-localising food production and distribution in this way is going to become increasingly important in a world where peak oil and climate change will have an ever-greater impact on how we grow and consume our food.

Exciting times indeed! I’ll keep you informed of how we get on.

Things are taking off at Westmill Organics – literally!

Written by Pete Richardson. Posted in Latest News

As the old saying goes, time flies when you’re having fun. Sorry for the lack of communication of late, but we’ve been extremely busy getting things up and running – not to mention dealing with some pretty atrocious weather!

A couple of weeks ago we lost one of our six polytunnels in the gale-force winds: it literally took off and landed spectacularly in the hedge! Fortunately, no one was hurt and no crops had been planted, but it’s in tatters and it means we’re going to have to rethink some of our cropping plans.

          Before…                                                    And after…

            Westmill 10 - Polytunnel              Damaged polytunnel 3

But apart from flying polytunnels, things are generally shaping up very nicely and it’s getting to the point where I’m beginning to find a little more time to get on with other things. So this blog is the start of more regular communications with you all. I’m also excited about using Facebook and Twitter to keep you up-to-date with what’s happening here at Westmill Organics and to answer any questions you might have.

So what have we been up to since February?

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