Gaeaf yn Cyrraedd/News From the Farm
After a first frost we always wonder which version of the season is
coming up. Mild frost is fine, harder may look photographic but is
generally damaging to leafy crops (and valves and pipework!). We all have less options post frost. Weather volatility is one of several
non-cheery themes facing the British Isles and the wider world, and not so motivating when planning the 2024 growing campaign. We continue however to receive lots of public support and demand has remained high over most of 2023. While we are sometimes asked why we don't simply grow more the incentives to do so are minimal right now and most farming in the UK is shrinking as higher costs meets public inability to pay the production price. Big grocery retailer are indeed behaving poorly, maintaining margins while farming suppliers are walking away from the field. Specifically seed, electricity, wages, materials, are dearer,and greater than price increases on the shelf, result-reduced profitability and ability to keep on investing in inevitable capital kit.
The reduction of choice in British cuisine can be a good thing as
necessity driven food culture has powered Italian, Lebanese and Thai tables very well,forever. The return of cheap protein, effectively bean/pea variations, is now and Hodmedods and others continue to remind us how to make the humblest ingredient into rich flavour,and nutrition.Fermenting v.ordinary fava beans into miso paste being a case in point.We all like Umami flavours we just got diverted by Henry VIII type thinking, for a long time?
Our specific challenges on St.Dogmaels Rd have centred on drought effects with damaged fertility in 2022+2023 as we were unable to build fertility as planned in several areas. Watching bare soil cook over the Summer was painful, with our clover blankets established very late in the season and much "solar power" wasted. Unseasonal winds late Summer account for ltd Squash crop this year too. Fortunately some younger legs have kept the show on the road in recent seasons and we have seen several of them move on successfully to studying, jobs or other projects. As an industry horticulture attracts enthusiasts but is choked off by a largely unregulated retail sector. Many new projects falter lacking a profitable route to the public. Our farmshop model is our lifeline to growing anything.
Greenery over the Winter is likely to be short and rationing, as per Spring 2023, wouldn't be a surprise. We have more polytunnel space planted to late Winter/Spring crops than ever before so fingers crossed!
We've found watching the Gazan conflict painful to watch and we can add a farming perspective (more on accompanying pics) as Palestinian growers are replaced by settlers (disturbingly some of UK origin). Seeing a border Strawberry farm methodically squashed by a tank recently perhaps crude power in action. The lack of objectivity on BBC bulletins and the generally misleading line of UK newsprint hasn't helped inform anybody. Maybe more of us now are familiar with the Balfour Declaration, the Nakba as well as WWII, but a more polarised wider world is certainly an outcome so far.
As the UK Government has at least been consistent in it's approach to looting and self-enhancement we can perhaps hope that the old Cardi maxim that our local economy sails on regardless has some truth to it. There are some impressive initiatives taking place in St.Dogs and beyond, trying to glue up community cracks, whether via the White Hart, Repair Cafe, Coachhouse or local businesses. It is easy to forget that many visitors correctly identify Cardigan and other west coast towns as relatively intact compared to other places. Continued use of local businesses counteracts the export of cash by larger operators as 4CG and others have long pointed out. The impending 2024 General Election seems to promise, for England particularly, a choice of representatives that nobody would want to vote for. At least eating well remains, for most of us, entirely possible !
Amidst some dreadful events in Gaza(and other conflicts) the UK is in a difficult situation.Having voted in a fairly right wing government and watched a credible opposition be replaced by an incredible one, it is not clear what the future holds. Teddy Roosevelt was famous for upending the US Robber Barons period of looting,street violence and press disorder. Regulation and laws followed,and prosperity arrived.Any society unable to control it own elites is in trouble.
A laissez-faire UK Gov is taking no role in facing food and farming challenges and has in fact made trading for most UK producers harder.Many of us have no incentive to grow more and cheap food in Aldi is as far as the plan goes. It all hinges on control over food retail with farming subsidies papering over the cracks. Welsh Gov has also proved feeble at using it's powerful planning system to do anything much. Glebelands is trading and growing against the odds but succeeding in big part because people want us to, with rising customer visits through 2023.
We are planning 2024 cropping now and trying to invest money in survival and kit to withstand greater wind and weather extremes. Our newish borehole and water distribution system has been a big cost but reassuring to have. Despite abandoning our 2nd site at Bryncws in the Spring we aim to produce at least as much as previous years overall. Our greatest challenge remains raising pay to levels that can make horticulture a long term career for more people. With your support we will continue to try to do that.