Having grown for seven seasons we are feeling much more in control of the growing side of the business at Trill Farm Garden. Winter is naturally a time of reflection, so we look at how the year has gone and whether there are changes to be made for the next year. As the years go by there are fewer and fewer changes to be made as we refine our cropping plan based on what has sold well the previous year, what grows well on our soil and what makes us a living from our small area of land that we work.
As we have built up our business it has allowed us to take on more labour, mainly people who have come wwoofing at the farm, then became friends and then continued to work for us as paid labour. We have also had an informal trainee for the past three years. We are really lucky to have had such a great team of friends working with us who are interested in vegetable growing. A significant benefit that small scale family farms offer over larger scale farms is the labour requirements needed to run them. This means that where the average farm employs 0.017 people per hectare, small farms employ 0.72 people per hectare.
One of the autumn projects this year has been to tidy up some of the spaces around the polytunnels by making beds for growing cut flowers for our summer stall in Lyme Regis, and for growing raspberries (mainly for ourselves...). We have been using offcuts from the sawmilling that is done at Trill to edge the beds, to stop the weeds from creeping in at the edges, and making use of the woodchip which has been produced from clearing around the power line that goes through the farm.
We are still processing seed that we saved through the year – some for ourselves, and other grower friends, and some for the Real Seed Catalogue. We have huge amounts of orache and salad burnet for our summer salad mix, lots of beans and tomatoes, and our first biennial seed crop from a beetroot called Avon Early which I got through the Heritage Seed Library. We have grown chillies, sunflowers and poppies for the seed catalogue, and have turnips growing in the tunnel which we will save seed from next summer. One of the best and easiest successes from seed saving this year was the strip of coriander that we kept in at the edge of one of our polytunnels. We were able to save a huge amount of seed very easily, but before that the coriander flowered and was host to a great diversity of insects including many parasitic wasps which in turn predated on the aphids in the polytunnel. Allowing plants to flower like this often attracts many beneficial insects, many of which often eat the crop pests. Helping to create this balance is a fundamental organic principle and doing so whilst also producing a crop of seeds is ideal.
Ashley has been running Trill Farm Garden since 2010 with his partner Kate. Ellen is the Senior Grower and Seed Coordinator at Trill Farm Garden.