Chayo’s blog

Chayo is one of our Kickstarter apprentices, and we have three more positions available, if you are aged 16-24 years old, claiming Universal Credit and able to get to WA14 3RB independently. See here for our job description.

Hey guys, my name’s Chayo, and I’m a kickstarter apprentice at Reddy Lane Market Garden.

I’ve been working here on the farm for about 8 weeks (3 days a weeek) doing a bunch of different jobs around the place.

For the past few weeks, aside from all of the veg box stuff which I’ll get onto in a bit, there’s been a lot of seed sowing and planting going on. This, coupled with the harvesting of all the leeks, purple sprouting broccoli and red russian kale (all of which ended up in the veg boxes), meant preparing the beds where these crops once were before we could plant or sow new plants.

Preparing the beds is one of my favourite jobs on the farm, I find I can really get in the zone doing jobs like broadforking soil, shovelling compost to spread over the beds and getting an even spread with the rake (or as even as possible without spending a few decades on the job).

I enjoy the process of familiarizing myself with the tools I’m using, and figuring out the most efficient way to handle them. This focus helps me keep my energy up, by avoiding postures which put the strain on my joints, instead looking for ways to incorporate muscle into the movement. This way I don’t injure myself but also get more of a workout, which is always a good thing, and surprisingly helps to keep me energized and motivated, when compared to more static jobs where I’m hunched over in variations of the same position for a while. The process of figuring out how to shovel faster, or use the broadfork quicker, fascinates me in the same way martial arts often have: finding a way to turn each thrust of the shovel into a circular and fluid movement, noticing how using a completely kinetic approach instead of one where the body stays static with the arms like pendulums spreads the weight and workload throughout your body instead of being concentrated in your knees and back… stuff like that. I’m not sure how much faster Lindsay and Adie think I am as a result of it, but it definitely feels faster to me at least, so I think I’ll keep at it… maybe just avoiding raking the new soil to a pedantic degree. Anyways!

Once these beds are prepared comes the jobs of planting the crops, which involves using the dibber to create the holes and then shimmy-ing the beetroot or radish seedlings out of their seedtrays, and popping them in. This was a bit of a nightmare at first, just because there were so many seedlings to do and it was taking me about two minutes getting one out, but after a while I got used to how delicate you actually had to be, and found that watering the trays before getting them out made the whole thing miles easier.

My proudest moment when it comes to planting these things was when I set myself the challenge of doing horse-stance (an exercise where you basically squat at a 90 degree angle and see how long you can hold it) for the whole process of doing the holes along the bed. This was pretty hard but it actually made the whole thing a lot faster, since I was in a much better position relative to the beds, and I could shift to the side continuously as I made the holes, instead doing a few and then stopping to move onto the next set. Luckily it was one of the last jobs that day and I wasn’t cycling home so my legs were spared after this ordeal! I don’t reckon I’m going to be doing that again any time soon though.

So those were two slightly in-depth descriptions of some of the jobs that I’ve been doing. I tried to make it as interesting as possible for you, just as I try make it as interesting as possible for myself, because once I start daydreaming too much then the work takes so much longer to get done, and that’s not really fun for anybody.

Tiny terror Willow (photo by Alison Groves)

That being said, on the longer days there is the positive side that the tiny terror Willow (Lindsay’s dog) tends to give up on chasing the stick and settles by the shed, if you’ve thrown it far enough enough times. And just as Willow goes for her nap and calls it a day, I think I’ll leave it at that for this blog post. I hope this gave some insight into what I do at Reddy Lane, and how I view it.

Thanks for reading, and have a nice day!
Peace

Dispensing some veg box wisdom

We do have a few veg box slots available if you are interested, see this page.

Seven years as a market trader means I’ve heard a lot of observations about organic seasonal veg over the years, and wanted to share some my tips with you.

Firstly, It tastes better, so your cooking will be instantly next level too, I promise 😊

Andrea Bemis who’s books and blog I really recommend

Books
If you’re anything like me, you own a lot of cookery books, but maybe have only cooked a handful of recipes from them. Seasonal veg will make you try some of the new recipes.

Some good ones for seasonal UK veg are Anna Jones and Ottolenghi. I also really like Meera Sodha (Indian vegetarian) and Sabrina Ghayour (Middle Eastern and meat focused). For blogs I like Thug Kitchen, Green Kitchen Stories and Digging up the Dirt. The latter is written by Andrea Bemis who farms in Oregon, and her original recipes showcase the less sexy vegetables.

Food variety in a year, not a week
A seasonal veg box can feel abit like you are eating one crop until it’s coming out of your ears. Just when you are beginning to think not again, it will disappear again to be replaced by something else that feels refreshingly “new.” Asparagus, new potatoes, corn on the cob, beans and courgettes to name a few seasonal stars.
If something really is coming out of your ears I find batch cooking huge meals at a time works for me, and my two freezers testify to this. Great when you come home starving and freezing from a hard day on the farm.

Hungry gap
There is a ‘hungry gap’ in the UK from late April to early June where the stored Winter crops have finished and the new season crops are only just starting to appear. It’s a challenge to source organic UK veg at this time, and the prices reflect that. Hold your nerve, summer goodness is coming, and prices will drop again. 

Veggie tips
Cauliflowers, leafy cabbages and calabrese broccoli are sold per unit, and the price is the same whether it’s a good season or a poor season ie. whether they are big or small. As the farmer has done exactly the same work whether they are big or small. Just like farming, you may score a whopper or you may feel abit like you’ve been had.

Red/white cabbages, squash and celeriac are sold by weight, and some of them are huge. For cabbages, if you are feeling intimidated (and I used to), learn how to make sauerkraut, and you’ll never look back.

Making saurkraut with enormous red cabbages

For squash: soup, curry and adding to the Sunday roast are my go to’s. For soup- I add coconut and chilli. For curry- I add chickpeas and spinach/chard. For Sunday dinner, just roast along with your other roast veg, and snack on leftovers through the week.

For celeriac: I make soup and freeze.

If you are not sure what to do with a root vegetable, roast it, and make a quick dipping sauce for it. Great for packed lunches through the week, with a grain &/or salad.

Salads and greens

The veg is unwashed- we don’t have the washing facilities and it’s a whole next level of audit with Environmental Health to sell washed crops. But if you are finding the greens abit gritty, particularly the salad, I do recommend a salad spinner. Ours was just a couple of quid from Ikea (other retailers are available).
We grow alot of salad, it makes everything else viable. Make a simple salad dressing by adding 3 parts oil to one part acid (lemon or vinegar). Add garlic, salt and pepper, and drizzle over your salad. Add things like yogurt, tahini, capers, herbs, blended onion to make more interesting.
There can be a lot of greens like kale and chard, and a good way to get more into you, is to steam then stir fry as they will reduce down. Start stems first as they take longer to cook, then add leaves. Great with soy sauce/ garlic/ lemon juice/ butter.

How to store
Our greens are picked just hours before they are delivered to you. But if they are not in plastic, they will wilt very quickly. If we deliver crops like kale, herbs or chard in a bunch with an elastic band round it, then put it in plastic yourself, and put it in the fridge. They should last for up to 1 week.
If you don’t have a suitable plastic bag, put it in water, like a bunch of flowers.
DON’T just put it loose in the fridge, as it will wilt very quickly.

How long does it last?

Greens in plastic should last up to 1 week.
Dirty root veg should last months, as long as you do not let it dry out. In Spring time though, they will start to try and grow roots.
Garlic, squashes and onions will last for 1 year if stored well (dark, cool, not damp).
White and red cabbages should last a few weeks though the outer layer may start to age abit. This can just be peeled off.
Chillies and herbs can be dried or frozen.

Share your kitchen triumphs

If you do anything cool with one of our veggies, send me the recipe and a photo and I’ll post it with a credit to you. (The photo needs to look good though, and natural light is the best way to achieve this.)
 
Happy eating,

Lindsay 🙂

2020’s growing season (oh and Covid and Brexit!)

So, this was an epic year for us, and thank you our wonderful veg box customers for your support. If you would like to join our veg box scheme in Spring, there’s details at the bottom of the page.

Our beetroot and broad beans are harvested hours before your delivery.

When the first lock down was announced in March, the markets we traded at in Levenshulme and Altrincham closed, and we had a £10k grant for community sessions retracted, so it was an incredibly stressful time. We’d spent the entire year planning the year out, and everything changed. Lindsay worked a record breaking 245 hours in March trying to work out what to do.

But at the same time everyone in the country was worrying about where they were going to get their food from. We were bombarded with 100 emails a day with people trying to join the organic veg box scheme. We had to put an out- of-office reply on my email, and eventually the inbox became so full that the emails just bounced back. Due to the demand we were able to double the veg box scheme from 30 to 60 people. We ran a waiting list all last year.   

Covid and Brexit have shown how fragile our food supply is, and how local growers are essential to ensuring the food supplied is climate-friendly, healthy and accessible. Data collected during April 2020 found that box schemes country-wide had doubled their numbers. The Organic Growers Alliance (OGA) published research from surveying of 101 veg box schemes, and found the 101 veg box schemes had delivered 0.7 million veg boxes in six weeks, but they could provide more, as 82% had waiting lists.

Our chard is harvested just hours before delivery.

The box schemes were asked what could be done to support veg box schemes to add these customers. And the top answer was investment. The government knows that food costs more to produce than producers are paid. So, historically DEFRA subsidised (as part of the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy) landowners which are larger than 5 hectares simply for owning land (and some of these landowners produced food on their land). Market gardens exist to produce food but will be on a much smaller acreage, so they have never received any of this funding. This is despite the fact that fruit and vegetables are the only food group the government recommends we eat more of.

 The second answer was a national and long-term vison for a sustainable food and farming system. Under the new post- Brexit agriculture policy, with a move away from CAP payments due to land ownership to payments based on delivery of public goods, it was hoped that those who run veg box schemes might experience a more level playing field. But MPs voted down amendments to the Agricultural Bill, and the 10 Point Plan for Green Recovery makes no mention of food and farming, so we have been left out in the cold. We are relying on new and regular customers to support us long-term so that we are there to supply pesticide free fresh produce to our local communities in years to come.

This year Reddy Lane grew 1.38 tonnes of local organic veg, which went in the veg boxes we delivered locally. This is up from 1.15 tonnes last year. Interestingly, by focusing on high value crops, the extra 17% of crop weight grown brought in an overall 41% extra of total income.

Reddy Lane’s own crops made up just under 30% of the total value of the veg in the veg boxes. Lindsay single-handedly packed and delivered 1774 veg boxes! And she still thinks we can do much better on the amount of veg we can grow, and have been working with experienced market gardeners to crop plan for higher income and yields.

Kale and Purple sprouting broccoli at Reddy Lane

Top crops (in kgs)
Courgette & Marrow 217kg
French beans 194kg
Leeks 185kg
Kale 125kg
Chard 105kg

Reddy Lane’s French bean yield was 194kg

Top crops ( in ££s)
Salad £1900
Kale £1235
French beans £927
Leeks £639
Chard £610

And while we’re not dropping any of these crops, a more interesting analysis is value for space ratio, and how to work quick and profitable crops around these maincrops. For example, Rocket makes £12 a metre, and takes 4-5 weeks til harvest.    

If you would like to support local food growers and join the veg box scheme in Spring, please email us. There is info on the scheme here, and where we deliver to. Send us your postcode and we can check you are in the delivery area.

If you aren’t in the delivery area, and would just like to join our mailing list, send us your email and say mailing list.

Lindsay’s musings on starting the market garden

I feel that people are so focused on food, with fad diets and putting your dinner on Instagram, but so disconnected with how it’s produced. The food system is broken when we can eat cucumbers, tomatoes, and French beans 360 days of the year. Current expectations to have whatever food you want, whenever you want and the corporate food culture of supermarkets has left us with bland tasteless vegetables.

They have erased our seasons, so the selection is extremely monotonous, as it’s the same in August as it is in December. Most people can’t trace their food back to the place and people that grew it. They don’t know what they could grow in their own back garden.

So, I started Reddy Lane Market Garden, and began growing and sourcing organic veg and selling it locally. Being a market gardener is hard, it can be isolating and lonely due to the long and unsociable hours. Running the community sessions was a wonderful way to counter this and connect to people through food. Reddy Lane is here for the long term and I will be working the land for years to come, so I hope we can continue to run the community sessions and continue to connect through food.

Our social value

Last year we piloted a community volunteering program at our market garden, and now we have our Social Value Report 2020 showing what we did. You can read the report by clicking on the download button.

We exist to create opportunities for food sovereignty, climate friendly farming and wellbeing. Last year, we demonstated this with:
-684 volunteer hours were undertaken across 9 months involving 28 diverse people.
-40 sessions were run on food growing.
-This equates to a combined value of £15,960.00 through volunteering
-114 interactions between the organic growing community and local people took place.

Volunteer sessions increased the confidence and independence of community members, as people developed new social circles, increased activity outdoors and enabled connections with nature.
Volunteer benefits included:
100% of people involved reported health and wellbeing benefits
100% of those interviewed built skills, knowledge and experience in food growing
45% were total beginners to growing upon starting the programme

We also traded at 77 local markets, and delivered over 1100 veg boxes to local people.

We want to build on this for 2020, and we want you to get involved. In January, we changed our company structure to a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee, which reflects our values and means we are more accountable. If you would be interested in joining the volunteer sessions, please send me your email address. If you’d be interested in a veg box, also send your email. And if you’d like to hear what we are doing next year, send your email to be added to our main mailing list. Click here to email us.

Nettle stew

-Onion
-Few cloves of garlic
-Stock (ours had chicken and preserved lemons in)
-Handful of tomatoes
-Courgette or two
-Nettles
-Tin of butter beans
-Oil for cooking
-Red wine
-Salt /pepper / dried thyme

Not sure entirely why, but I was fixing the fence and decided to pick a patch of nettles, and here’s the result.

Fry the onion and garlic in oil.
Add the courgette & tomatoes (or anything you have available. We are glutting with these at the moment).
Add the beans & stock. Salt, pepper & dried herbs. Simmer.
Add the nettles. Just the tops & new leaves as stalks are stringy. They won’t sting you after they’ve had some heat, but be careful adding them to the pan.
Simmer until the nettles & beans are cooked how you like them.
The key to this is the stock. Ours was leftover chicken with preserved lemons.

Just the ticket for a cold September evening, I had mine with quinoa and a glass of red wine. Enjoy 🙂

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(Words and images: Lindsay Whalen)

Start of 2019

So, we are into Spring 2019 already, and it has been very busy for me personally. I sdrhave never worked so hard in my life as I worked in March of this year. We started trading weekly at Altrincham Market on a Friday, we took on our first employee (the lovely Maria), we built a lean-to and packing area, we started putting the site into full production and we started running our community sessions at the farm.

The lean-to and packing area was built by Jed and Jim, and we are thrilled with it and using it to pack the veg boxes on Sunday now.

davThe community growing sessions are now up and running out at the market garden. The sessions will run throughout the growing season, on Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday. There are lots of different tasks for all different levels of experience and ability, and we have lots of brew breaks and time spent leaning on the garden fork. We’re a welcoming bunch, and would love you to come and lend a hand at your local organic market garden.
Dates currently scheduled are:
Wednesday 17th April
Saturday 20th April
Tuesday 23rd April
Wednesday 1st May
Saturday 11th May
Tuesday 14th May
More dates will be confirmed later and there’s more info on the community page of the website.

In the polytunnel, we have rocket and salad, which we will be selling at the markets and sdrin the veg boxes over the next couple of weeks. The broad beans, spinach and some of the beetroot are in. Plenty more beetroot have been sown in trays. This week we are turning our attention to French beans, herbs and kales.

We are putting out content on the eating with the seasons page of our website too about what to do with the veg as the seasons progress. Katy Brown has written some lovely words on wild garlic and rhubarb. If you would like to send some thoughts or recipes on your favourite seasonal veg, then we may publish it (with full credit) if you email it to us. Tip: if you take a photo of your meal, do it outside, as otherwise the light won’t be right for publishing.

 

 

 

What a season!

We continued into Winter building the tunnel. We built the door frames, we hung the ventilation netting, we covered it with plastic and got it drum tight. This is achieved by dropping the mid rail by 7cm on each side, and George achieved this in his usual style. By hitting it really hard with a hammer!


burst
Trimming off the excess plastic after skinning the tunnel.

We also laid the foundations and built the shed. Pretty hard to make the shed look inspiring, but it was a really important job to get ticked off before Winter.

sdr
Then we planted the 15kg of organic garlic, which is the final job of the season, and we always do garlic as there is alot of leeway as to when you can get it down. As long as it’s in before Xmas, then we have still had good yields. The image on the left shows George using a flame weeder to burn the holes into the ground fabric, and the one on the right is 15kg laid down.


Then just in time for Xmas we had some great news, that we have been awarded £10k grant to deliver our community growing sessions. This covers volunteer travel, lunch, tools and waterproof clothing. If you are interested in getting involved in 2019, please drop us a line on contact [at] reddylane.com

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The tunnel

1It feels a long time after the crowdfund, but we have finally begun construction on our 100 foot polytunnel.

Polyunnels on this scale are really expensive, and it costs the same again to have it constructed for you. So, after a lot of ummming and aaahhhing we decided to use all the crowdfund money for the raw materials, and construct it ourselves. This meant we got a larger polytunnel and a very daunting task for October. It has been keeping us all very busy, and we’ve definately had some tension in the group, but it does look rather wonderful already. We have learnt alot!2

It is quite a task to construct, and there are many stages. One of the first tasks is taking delivery of it all, and trying to work out what it all is. It seemed so much timber and packets of ironmongery.

Then you need to very accurately measure it out, and dig 32 holes for the 16 hoops. The base plates then sit inside this, and are anchored on to tubes, and then backfilled. Measuring and levelling them took forever. Personally I nearly cried this day….

But then you can really quickly construct the hoops and something rather wonderful begins to take shape.

dav

Bureaucratic wins

We have been told by the planners we can build Reddy Lane Market Garden to the specifications that we want to, and we have had our organic licenses issued by the Soil Association.

Planning permission
Reddy Lane Market Garden has finally been granted full approval to build its  27.43 x 5.49m (90x 18 feet) polytunnel, and storage shed with packing area. It took alot of phone calls, a meeting, then complicated to-scale maps and done at home technical drawings. Oh, and a £90 fee! But we were finally told we could proceed without needing full planning permission, which felt like a major step forward, so now we can finally begin to build the site.

We were only allowed to proceed because the field we are in is many hectares, and therefore the landlowners have permitted development rights to farm their land. The landowners also kindly submitted the application in their names. There is no way we would have been granted permission on the original site that fell through in Strines, as the landowners only owned 8 acres, and that is not enough land. Dealing with some of the staff at the planning office was frustrating, and highlighted how far there is to go before we can even contemplate good availability for locally produced pesticide free food. The entire planning system for farm “development” would need to be re-hauled. Also, it would help if they could envisage that women under 40 years old might be capable of running farms.

Compost loo
The easiest building task to begin with was the compost loo, which we think is pretty important to ensure volunteers can feel comfortable helping out. It is being put together by building a frame and attaching fence panels to it. The floor is paving slabs and the ceiling is corrugated plastic. We are hoping this will come together at two fifths of the cost of buying one as a bundle, which can be eye-wateringly expensive for what is a small garden shed with a box and a loo seat in.

Organic license
Reddy Lane Market Garden is already part of a much larger organically certified farm called Abbey Leys Farm. It has already been through it’s three year conversion period, so the license for our market garden just had to transfer to our name, but this included a three hour inspection on crop rotation, organic seeds and inputs, and  fertility building. We will be audited another 2x in the first year to make sure we are compliant. We wrote a short why buy organic page here.

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