Our produce & sourcing
What we grow, how we grow it and why
Our farm is made up of 4 acres of field space and 1 acres under glass houses and poly tunnels.
Because space is limited we concentrate on growing crops that make the best use of the land, providing the maximum amount of food possible. For example, this means we choose different types of kale, which we get multiple picks from, as opposed to cabbages and cauliflowers, which would only provide one harvest.
Unfortunately, we don’t grow staples like potatoes, onions or parsnips due to our clay heavy soil, which they don’t thrive in. This decision is also owing to the fact we are not set up with the specific equipment and efficiencies of scale to make these kinds of crops economically viable. It makes far more sense to buy them in from other local, organic businesses whose operations are geared towards supplying others, and who have more suitable, free-draining soil.
Further to kale, chard and perpetual spinach, other vegetables we grow outdoors, and which do incredibly well, are leeks and squash. We can fit thousands of leeks in one patch and they happily stay outdoors over Winter, meaning we can pull them up as we need them, lasting us into the Spring. Our leeks aren’t as uniform as ones you’ll find in plastic packets but we think they’re much more delicious and we don’t waste anything by excessively trimming them, so you know they’re super fresh and have more to cook with. As to the squash, the varieties we grow have incredible depth of flavour, and are nothing like insipid, oversized, out of season butternuts. The flesh of bright orange Uchiki Kuri is comparable to chestnuts, whereas the deep green skinned Kabocha is richer and earthier and stripy Delicatas are lovely and buttery. They are all an absolute joy to behold when we harvest them, by the ton, in Autumn and they store well, curing over the winter and, with their endless versatility, cheering us up through the colder months.
We also grow broad beans, purple sprouting broccoli, sweetcorn and celeriac and have some outdoor perennials; strawberries and rhubarb, which we are keen to increase our yields of.
We painstakingly plan our sowing and planting so that we have a continuous supply of greens all year round. Indoor plantings of chard and spinach last over the Winter, regrowing in Spring, and our early plantings of kales in March are ready for when our outdoor kales end. This means there’s never an excuse not to eat your greens and it’s hardly a chore when they’re always so beautiful looking, brimming with goodness and delivered to you so soon after picking.
We also provide our unique mixed salad, one of our most popular items, throughout the year, returning to beds to pick week after week and selecting different crops to account for light levels and temperatures. You will notice the mix changes throughout the seasons, but it always includes a balance of spicy, peppery, bitter and mild leaves as well as exciting textures, thanks to mustard frills, brassicas (like watercress and rocket) and a range of red and green lettuces, plus more unusual things like chicory, claytonia, pea shoots, bean tops, buckshorn plantain and agretti.
Other indoor crops we grow through the Winter are Chinese cabbage and Asian greens like pak choi and tatsoi, which go into our stir-fry packs (the shoots are a real delicacy when they bolt in Spring!). Our parsley and coriander are also indispensable for enlivening Winter meals.
As the weather gets warmer we can offer fresh garlic, radishes and a new favourite, salad turnips. These lead onto spring onions, sugar snap peas and bunches of beetroot.
In high Summer we grow everyone’s favourites: tomatoes, aubergines, peppers and cucumbers along with fennel and beans! Some of these crops are very time consuming, requiring potting up, planting out (with nets, cages or individual strings), regular training and epic amounts of picking but we’re sure you’ll agree they’re worth the effort and investment, as they really don’t compare to anything found in a supermarket. Summer is definitely a special time, when our boxes celebrate the abundance more sunshine brings and we’re keen to build on this, trialling vegetables that aren’t commonly produced in UK, such as sweet potatoes and edamame, as well as increasing our offering of fruit from our peach and fig trees.
We are actively seeking more land in order to increase the amount we can grow, and therefore the amount we can put in our veg boxes! If this becomes a reality, which we are pleased to say seems not such a distant prospect, after undergoing organic conversion and receiving Soil Association Certification, we would like to grow crops like the cabbages and cauliflowers we currently can’t justify space-wise. We would also grow more of the vegetables that work so well, like cavolo nero and our beloved purple sprouting broccoli, and if we were able to acquire land with lighter soil we would definitely consider roots too.
Additional acreage would also take pressure off the land we already have, freeing up space to establish permanent ‘beetle banks’ (mid-field refuges for insects) as well as other areas to serve as crucial habitats for pollinators and larger wildlife. Agroforestry, which means growing trees and crops together in a diverse system, would be another dream project to embark on.
We endeavour to source everything we don’t grow ourselves as locally as possible, reducing food miles, supporting neighbouring businesses and ensuring our customers receive the highest possible quality. Most people don’t realise it’s relatively rare for a veg box scheme not to buy anything in and we are tremendously proud of, and grateful for, the long-standing relationships we have built with other like-minded organisations and individuals.
We always enjoy discussing inevitable weather-related issues with Metske from Bore Place, with his many ear-rings, as he unloads his crates of amazing produce, from sweet, crunchy kohlrabi to enormous Crown Prince squash.
We are absolutely spoilt by the plethora of apple varieties from Matthew at Oakwood Farm, from Egremont Russets to Adams Pearmains. Sometimes he brings us a bunch of his latest experiment (grapes!) to try.
We consider ourselves very lucky to have a reliable source of speciality mushrooms from Brambletye and their berries are so good they have been known to cause squabbling amongst employees in the pack shed.
We’d love to work with more Sussex suppliers, so if you grow or make something exceptional, or know someone who does, please do get in touch.
During the Hungry Gap (April-May) it is much more challenging for us to source locally, so we work with our wholesale partners to bring produce from other countries, largely Spain and Italy. Obviously, this is not ideal in terms of carbon emissions, but it is worth remembering that transporting things like tomatoes via lorry results in less carbon than growing them here in heated glasshouses would.
In a culture of ‘green-washing’ we want to be completely transparent about where everything in your box comes from and our website is designed to do just this, showing the origin of each item in your box every week. Our swaps function then allows you to remove anything you don’t want, for whatever reason, whether personal preference or environmental stance, and to do so on a box-by-box basis. If you want to switch your avocados for UK grown mushrooms, that’s no problem! Equally, if you want to switch back next week because guacamole is on the menu, that’s absolutely fine too! We want to empower you with the information to make your own choices and whilst we will obviously respond to demand, we also want to remain flexible as different people navigate their own idea of being a responsible consumer. We hope this transparency will help improve understanding of what is seasonal and inspire our customers to really enjoy produce at its best, as well as to know that orders of every kind support a small team with big ambitions.
We also want to acknowledge that some things we regularly put in our boxes, like bananas, just can’t be grown locally. We choose to include these as we know most people now purchase them on a regular basis and we want everyone to love what’s in their box and be able to rely on us for the majority of their fresh groceries. This is why we offer different box sizes, so if you’re a family of four or more you might like to order multiple large fruit and veg boxes (and weekly extras too!), or if it’s just you, a smaller box with some fortnightly supplementary garlic and lemons might be enough. You really can tailor a bespoke delivery that fits your lifestyle, safe in the knowledge that your payments go not to a huge corporation, but to a group of passionate people committed to doing better and better.
Thank you for reading, and for helping us to work towards our long-term goals, such as purchasing electric farm vehicles, increasing our solar power generation and expanding our outreach into the community we exist within.