Food in the Ground!
It’s happening! In the face of the corona crisis and increasing awareness of the fragility of food supply chains, a huge surge in local food growing is occurring. Spurred by sudden newly formed questions over where Machynlleth’s food will come from in the coming months, the Planna Fwyd! Plant Food! working group has formed to harness this explosion of energy to grow more food.
Planna Fwyd! has seen an inspiring renaissance of the ‘dig for victory’ mentality, with people all over the Dyfi Valley scrambling to buy seeds and build veg beds. While people turn their attention to bringing more food from the soil, a movement of new farmers are taking to their tractors to bring local fields into vegetable production. Our Planna Fwyd! Farmers Group have stepped up to the challenge of a future of uncertain food imports, ploughing new ground and literally sowing the seeds for our food security this summer. Their activities are a welcome tonic to anyone worried about keeping vegetables on our plates…
Paul Bullen and the Glandyfi team set to work as soon as the crisis broke to create a new market garden. Using woodchip from Paul’s furniture business and manure from local farms, 40 new 15m long beds have been created on the flat fields near Penegoes. With potatoes in the ground and seeds for salads, kale, and runner beans being sown, Paul has worked with volunteers to get this site ready from scratch this spring.
Having already set up a market garden on her mixed farm in 2018, Kate Fenhalls decided to massively upscale this spring by ploughing 600m2 of land for potato and leek production. Kate is setting to work planting the blight resistant potato varieties Kestrel and Charlotte by hand with Land Army volunteers; over 1,200 seed potatoes. She also has 1,000 garlic in the ground and is sowing 500 sweetcorn plants.
Kate has teamed up with local grower Chris Jackson and local working horse Hamish to harrow and ridge the soil. Look out for these crops in the Green Isle Growers weekly veg bags.
Cefn Coch Farm
Joe Hope has been managing Cefn Coch Farm in Glaspwll since 2015. He keeps highland cattle and is involved in ecology work to monitor local wildlife. Along with his collaborator Jane Robertson, they have ploughed and harrowed an area nearly 200m2 and have sown 600 kale plants to be planted in the flattest part of their hilltop fields. This is an exciting new diversification for the farm and something they chose to do to as a security measure for the community in case of food shortages.
The folks at the Bodfrigan Housing Coop, Tre’r ddol, are turning some of the lawns of their traditional hunting lodge into community food production. This is their first year scaling up production and they have ploughed an area approx. 200m2 in their bottom field for cabbage and potato production. They are also bringing in fresh soil improver to create 36m2 of squash beds, as well as growing small quantities of rare grains as a trial.
A new growing space
Sadie, Gareth and Erannan have been busy putting up a polytunnel, fencing, and preparing beds for their new market garden on a sheep farm outside Machynlleth. Building on the success of their salad and vegetable dip businesses Dwylo Da Market Garden and Calon Dyfi, established while taking part in the Pathways to Farming training, they are scaling up. They will be providing fresh produce through the Siop Blodyn Tatws this year, and are ready to help meet the surge in demand for local chemical-free veg.
Sam, Katie and Gareth have prepped and planted a new potato field in the Dyfi Valley. With the help of local farmer Dylan Owen ploughing the land for them on his vintage international tractor, over 300 kilos of Orla, Pink Fur Apple and Cara potatoes are in the ground. Amounting to a hoped for harvest of 5 tonnes, fingers crossed for a good season!
Pathways to Farming
Already taking part in the Pathways to Farming training for new commercial growers when the crisis broke, trainees Kait, Ruth, Ian, Claire, Emma, Heather, Pete, Lisa, James and Tara are stepping up their game. Following a winter of meticulous crop planning, these growers have suddenly scrambled to take on almost double the land they had originally intended. Using plots at the Centre for Alternative Technology, the Ffriddgate Field, Cultivate Community Garden and Esgair Community, they are planting a huge diversity of produce from potatoes to microgreens. These crops will supply outlets in Machynlleth, as well as Tywyn and a Newtown Veg Box Scheme.
Following a recent shut down of the Centre for Alternative Technology due to the pandemic, these trainees have also taken on guardianship of crops for veteran grower Roger McLennan until he can return to his long standing produce field looking over the Dulas Valley.
And let’s not forget the existing food producers in the area who have been working long hours, spring after spring, to bring locally grown vegetables to our market stalls, shops and local cafes…
Einion’s Garden have been pumping out consistent taste and quality from their soils in Furnace for 10 years. Growing a huge range of food, they specialise in French Beans, Tomatoes and Chillis, all grown in a north facing bog! Ann and John Owen are expert farmers who give a great deal to helping local initiatives such as Edible Mach, as well as being organising members of the Green Isle Growers Veg Box scheme. Look out for their food in Dyfi Wholefoods, Fresh & Local and Cletwr Community Shop.
Lynn has been growing in Ffriddgate Field since setting up the growing space from sheep grazing pasture in 1999. The site is now about a quarter of a hectare of growing space and fruit trees, plus a wooded wildlife area. The fenced off plot is shared with others and produces a variety of crops; leeks, onions, potatoes, beans, kale and broccoli along with salads, to name a few. Soft fruit such as blackcurrants, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries provide for preserve making or are sold on a gate stall or Fresh and Local on Machynlleth Market. Lynn says "I am grateful to all those people who have helped me keep this plot going over the 20 years with their labour both paid and voluntary. And to the local farmers for the provision of manure when compost making is just not enough. Diolch yn fawr!".
Annie's Land is the first One Planet Development site to have been approved in Powys. They have been supplying fresh produce in Machynlleth for several years now, from 800ft above sea level. This year Annie has expanded the fruit production by planting an additional 35 hazelnut trees, 35 Welsh heritage apple trees and 30 strawberries. They are also expanding the vegetable production by extending the veg area by 75m2.
Now more than ever, we need to support these farmers to feed us. Buy local. Support farmers. Plant food!
This blog post has been focused specifically on vegetable production. We would love to write about all the good work being done in other food production sectors such as livestock, dairy and arable. Drop us a line to let us know about food production work to celebrate, at: email@example.com