Exciting news. We’re very pleased to welcome The Kitchen Garden People who have begun setting up the Honeydale Kitchen Garden.
Emma, Christine and Dan have been running a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) scheme in Chadlington, near Honeydale, for the past couple of years. Dan is passionate about growing and is a genius at growing all sorts of different plants, including herbs and lesser known varieties of lettuce. He worked as a grower for Cultivate for many years, growing local food for local people in Oxford.Emma grew up on an environmentally-focused farm in Wales and is in charge of most of the behind-the-scenes admin and communications. Christine, trained as an agricultural engineer, is founder of the Charlbury Green Hub, and is also an apple expert. They all enjoy being outside, getting their hands dirty and feel passionate about combining conservation and farming.
‘CSA schemes are a way of being able to supply vegetables and other fresh produce to local people, eliminating waste and the risk to the grower,’ explains Emma. ‘It removes the danger of producing a wonderful crop and taking it to market, only to find that not enough people come to buy it.’
The food is incredibly healthy. Because it’s not grown for shelf life, and can be picked at just the right time and harvested and sold on the same day, the nutritional value is much better. No pesticides are used and it also allows for the reintroduction of different varieties. A century ago there were 288 different beetroots but now there are only 17. Due to the demands of supermarket shelf lives, lettuce varieties have plummeted from 417 to 36. Emma explains that they are free to choose what they grow for taste rather than shelf-life which makes each share reminiscent of what her grandpa Bob used to grow on his allotment with all it’s flavour and scent.
The CSA scheme is extremely practical. People pay a monthly subscription of £25 for seasonal food and whatever is produced that week is simply divided up so that everyone gets an equal share. ‘It does require a change in mindset,’ Emma explains. ‘Because some weeks you get more than you are paying for that week, and others you get less, but all our subscribers have had a £160 saving over the year so it really is a win-win.
‘A weekly email is sent to members telling them what to expect in their share to be collected on the Friday and there’s lots of variety. There are salads all year round thanks to the polytunnels. We only had one week when we weren’t able to harvest anything, during the cold spell, when the salad just didn’t thaw.’
The Chadlington Kitchen Garden began in 2016 on a ⅕ acre site at The Grey House in the village and Emma, Christine and Dan spent over a year growing and selling ad hoc. The plot is not much bigger than an allotment but there was a polytunnel, greenhouse and asparagus bed which meant that they were able to grow and sell asparagus straight away. The ⅕ acre was soon providing for 30 members. It has a lovely history too as it used to be Mrs Moore’s herb farm. Fred and Pete used to work for Mrs Moore and they bought the workers cottages after she died and now they peer over the fence at The Kitchen Garden People and like to see that the land is producing again. They are very helpful and insightful too, says Emma. ‘Pete sees us planting and says, “there’s frost in the air, wait a week.” And he’s always right.’
The weekly collection takes place opposite the gates at Chadlington Primary School. The idea being that lots of people are going there anyway, so it’s convenient but also keeps the carbon footprint low. It also means the children get to take part and they’ve visited the kitchen garden to talk about the food web and worms and practice their maths, helping to divide up equal shares of the salad.
The Kitchen Garden People at Honeydale will operate in a similar way, but on a larger scale, which will be wonderful to see.
The 1.5 acre fieldscale site at Honeydale and large polytunnel will give Emma, Dan and Christine scope to expand. It will take a few months to get everything established, and subscriptions are full for this year, but the aim is that by March 2019 the Honeydale Kitchen Garden has the potential to provide for a hundred or so subscribers on the salad share, or fewer who would perhaps want to pay more for a bigger box (so they won’t need to go to the supermarket at all!)
The plan is to grow salads and veg including asparagus, kale, rainbow chard, courgettes, spinach, purple sprouting broccoli, leaf beet spinach, spring onions, flower sprouts, winter squash, onions, leeks, cucumbers, peppers, florence fennel, french beans, garlic, parsley, coriander, mustard, and different varieties of lettuce as well as redcurrants, pears, plums and rhubarb. It will also be possible to add some more root vegetables, and of course there’ll be the different varieties of apples from local orchards and the Honeydale Heritage Orchard. The beauty of these is that they will be ready for picking at different times.
Interested subscribers for 2019 should contact Emma on firstname.lastname@example.org