Clearing snow off organic vegetables in tunnels at Vital Veg Aberdeen

Newsletter 5th March 2018

On the Farm
Oh my, what a soggy place this is!  The snow of last week, however challenging, had a nice fluffiness to it.  Now it is replaced with heavy, slippery slush.  Let’s hope it drains away without causing major ice problems!  This weeks’ harvest of root veg might be a challenge…

This time of year the local pigeons flock together in increasingly large groups… and eventually descend on our crops.  In the past we have tried to keep them off with nets – but these simply crush the crops when the snow falls, and stops us harvesting anything.  Our neighbours don’t appreciate bird scarers (banging noises) and all other deterrents (ranging from fluttering lines, flashing objects, “scary furries” and “eagle eyes”) fail with depressing speed.  So, as I was clearing snow off the twinspan tunnel roof, I watched maybe 1000 or more pigeons enjoying the last of the kales on Saturday.  Apart from a few kilos harvested before the flock arrived, all the remaining kale is now converted to pigeon.  On the plus side, pigeon poo is great fertilizer, and since they are very prolific in that regard (especially after eating kale), we can look forward to some enriched soil!

It has been so cold and dark that we halted our leek sowing, and plan to resume it this week.  The seeds won’t move in near freezing temperatures, but our fingers and toes will complain bitterly, so here’s hoping for better conditions in the tunnels this week!

Supply chains and our National Chef
The empty shelves in supermarkets are testament to how vulnerable our food supply chains are to disruption.  The longer the chain the more vulnerable they can be, especially if part of the chain is overseas.  Scotland is dependent on overseas growers for over half the vegetables and over 90% of the fruit eaten here.  We do need more Scottish growers, and more hardy vegetables that can withstand frost – and we also need champions of traditional Scottish veg.

This brings me to our National Chef.  Did you know we had one?  As of last year winner of MasterChef, Gary Maclean has been given the role of championing Scottish produce.  His job is celebrate Scottish produce and teach people how to make the most of locally-sourced, healthy, sustainable and affordable food.  Needless to say it was disappointing to hear Mr Maclean on radio Scotland this morning taking about how to encourage children to eat more vegetables and saying that as a child he did not eat vegetables because “it was only cabbage and all that stuff – but now the choice of vegetables has much improved”.  How much better would it have been if he had said something along the lines of “now that I am a chef I realise how tasty and versatile and good value our locally grown cabbages and other traditional Scottish vegetables are – filled with nutritional value, great taste and the potential to make a valuable part of any meal.  Here are some ideas for vegetables in season in Scotland now”.  I feel a letter coming on….!