The Market Year - September
Our challenged farmers and growers are now enjoying the results of the summer's growing season following the welcome warmth of the last few months. Time for us all to revel in that abundance and consider putting away some bottled fruit and syrups, jams, pickles and chutneys for the winter months. Plums stand up well to bottling and are also great to have as a compote in the freezer. Ask the stallholders for bulk buys - they are pleased to help.
Photograph: Carlotta Luke
Alan is a man of many talents – he has a doctorate in biochemistry from Oxford and now not only does he run Fletching Glasshouses and several inter-connected web-based businesses with his family, but he is also an accomplished folk musician.
His entry into the world of organic growing was circuitous to say the least. As he says, he “did the whole self-sufficiency trip before in the 70s” but then went on to get involved in IT and e-commerce. He and his wife came to buy Fletching Glasshouses in 2006 simply in order to have a light place to store and pack the plants for their e-commerce business, plants4presents.co.uk, which was expanding rapidly at that time. Within a few months they realised they needed to use them fully and were asking themselves “What could be grown in an unheated house and what did we know anything about at all?” The answer – vegetables!
So, initially, they sowed spinach, lettuce and mangetout up the back of one of the four glasshouses and waited for it to grow. If they couldn’t sell it they’d just have to eat it and think of something else. The market grew quickly and they got their Soil Association certification in 2008 and have been selling to local retail outlets and markets ever since; gradually the whole 2 acre site was brought back into production.
Alan now concentrates on the sales and marketing and employs a team of 4 to work the site, though it was he who did the initial planting. The soil is good, being based on one of the greensand ridges. Having protected cropping has been hugely helpful to them over the last year – they are able to control the soil state, and it has proved a great advantage with the recent extremes of weather, especially as it’s designed for ventilation in a way that polytunnels are not. The rainwater runoff harvesting system which they installed in 2011 has helped a lot. The main difficulties he faces? Apart from having to learn how to be growers as they went along – are the costs and time taken to get the produce to market. Running market stalls is very time-consuming, and he manages this by sharing the stall with Ashurst and Noannah and taking turns to run it. Though many trade customers pick up from him direct, a co-ordinated network of refrigerated transport would make a huge difference.
“It’s hard to envisage where the business will be in 10 years time although I’m sure we’ll be better growers by then. The transport issue won’t just go away so we will just have to manage it ourselves,” says Alan. “ I’m looking forward to a greater awareness of vital food security issues with government and people organising their buying around local food.”
More of Carlotta Luke's photographs of Fletching Glasshouses are here...
In Season Now
Artichoke, aubergines, beetroot, peppers, tomatoes, courgettes, marrow, cucumbers, sweetcorn, runner beans, onions, spring onions, cauliflower, calabrese, chard, cabbage and spinach, carrots, winter squashes and pumpkins, local cobnuts and walnuts. plums, damsons and greengages, apples, figs, pears and blackberries. Crab, mussels and oysters, plaice and red mullet. Rabbit, venison and lamb.
Seasonal Recipes by Polly Senter
Lewes Food Market is run by Lewes Local Community Interest Company. It was founded to give the people of Lewes, and visitors, a unique opportunity to buy locally sourced fresh food products direct from the producers on a weekly basis.
Details of all the Lewes Food Market traders here...
See www.lovefoodhatewaste.com for help with wasting less food.
See www.makinglocalfoodwork.co.uk for exciting food news.
By buying local and eating food in season we are supporting and encouraging our local food producers. We can help them survive and multiply so that we are not so dependent on importing most of our food. With rising fuel costs, climate change affecting crops and constant international conflicts, importing is a risky business which can easily break down.