and what we believe in...
Vegetable box schemes, local markets and now this Online Farm Shop offer you the customer access to really fresh vegetables at an affordable price. Furthermore, buying locally supports small, organic farms and the people and skills involved.
The continuous downward pressure on food prices imposed by the supermarket / economic system is not sustainable for a small vegetable growing business like ours. Fundamentally, we cannot grow and provide vegetables at the low prices paid to producers by supermarkets. The global economic system sources from the cheapest cost of production and for organic vegetables this is generally where labour is the cheapest.
It is important to us to express the ecological, social and business thinking behind our organic vegetable growing business. There is an element of commitment involved from our customers. If you think the small degree of commitment is worth making then we gladly welcome you.
Health: There are many factors leading to good health in people. These include healthy food and diet, pure water, clean air, access to natural light, strength and fitness, a healthy positive mind, a trust that the body will cure itself and others possible including more abstract influences for example good luck and love!
As organic growers we strive to produce healthy plants and thus harvest healthy food, which in turn we can pass on to our customers. At Shillingford Organics it is our passion that we pass on the healthy vegetables we grow so they reach our customers in optimum condition and that the benefits of growing vegetables in natural systems is not lost due to inefficient delivery systems.
Healthy vegetables come in many forms. There are the bulbs and tubers - onions and potatoes, roots - carrot, parsnips, celeriac and beetroot. Then there are the leafy greens - spinach, lettuce, kales and the heading flowers - broccoli and cauliflowers.
The leafy greens and heading flowers and even sweetcorn will start losing their quality from the moment they are picked. Thus, in the summer we pick, pack and deliver these on the same day for our box scheme and Online Shop (Except in the winter when we are expecting a frost we may pick the evening before delivery.) New potatoes, carrots and beetroot are almost always harvested the day before delivery. Main crop potatoes, carrots and onions are stored in optimum condition.
To achieve this degree of freshness we only sell our vegetable boxes to areas local to the farm, i.e. to Exeter and the surrounding villages.
Ecology: From the perspective of the soil, the field and the farm it is important that we encourage natural systems wherever possible. These natural systems are interconnected and interdependent. If a part is missing it affects the whole system.
The vegetables are grown in a six year rotation. Green manures and the use of composts are integral in that rotation to maintain fertility and the health of the soil. Most of the wild pests are controlled by natural predators, whether they are slugs, which are controlled by beetles, frogs, birds, etc.; caterpillars which are controlled by parasitic wasps and hoverfly, or aphids which are controlled by Hoverfly, ladybird larvae, lacewings and many others. Even field mice, rabbits and pigeons are controlled to a degree by hawks and buzzards, stoats and foxes. We plant field margins and beetle banks and manage our hedgerows to harbour natural predators in the winter months.
To us ecology also has global connotations. Patrick Whitefield in his permaculture book 'The Earth Care Manual' beautifully expresses a fuller understanding of The Ecological ethic. He distinguishes 'The Humanitarian' from 'The Ecological.'
"...The Humanitarian gives equal worth to all humans: good is what benefits the most people most of the time. The Ecological embraces humans, other sentient beings and the health of the planet: good is what benefits the whole Earth."
He goes on to say: "caring for the Earth is in our interest not only for ultimate survival but for our quality of life in the short term... Yet at a deeper level... it is fundamentally right to care for the Earth, whether it benefits us or not."
To me 'The Ecological' is a powerful context from which to live. Producing great food and supplying local people is an exciting way for people to connect with the farm, the soil and nature.
The Soil: Cultivated plants thrive best on soil fed with the same kind of food that nature makes for its own use. In natural systems this food is made of fallen leaves, twigs, decaying weeds and grasses and other vegetable matter, plus a small percentage of animal and bird manures. In the normal course of nature these are spread thinly over a wide area and so take many months to thoroughly decompose in readiness for feeding the soil.
Plants have evolved in this system for hundreds of millions of years. In a truly ecologically balanced system no disease or pest dominates. The plants are healthy. The early sustainable farmers evolved a more usable way to prepare this natural food. They took similar materials and built them into a heap so that decomposition would be quickened. Ideal 'manure' - nature's food for the soil - was thus able to be produced in a matter of weeks. It was found to be dark and crumbly, easy to handle and odourless and given the name of 'compost.'
Today organic farmers use 'green manures' and composts. Green manures are crops grown specifically to be returned to feed the soil, e.g. grass clover, vetches, etc. Often they are legumes which fix nitrogen from the atmosphere.
Without compost and green manures organic farming would not be possible. Making good compost and feeding the soil along with sustainable rotations are the essence of good organic farming. These produce a good healthy balanced soil and in turn strong, healthy plants.