Last week I hopped on the bus and made my way to Shillingford Abbot. The location of my favourite organic vegetable producers. Shillingford Organics is a family run farm situated a little outside Exeter producing seasonal, organic vegetables, salad, herbs and fruit. They also keep hens under the charge of Matt Baker that produce beautiful organic eggs. Shillingford have been producing organic veg boxes since 2001 and in 2014 started their online shop. In addition to their own, they also source a range of organic produce from people with similar ethics. All produced locally.
I arrived to a hub of activity. It was barely 9am and the team were in full swing packing boxes ready for market and local businesses. I introduced myself to the group and explained that I was there as a blogger which I think a few found “interesting”…
Once introduced it was time to don the wellies and hop on the back of the tractor. We took a short drive out to the fields with the head of Shillingford Organics, Martyn Bragg at the wheel. Once at our destination (the spinach field) we hopped off the back. The team went about business. Picking the spinach for the veg boxes whist Martin took me on a tour of the farm.
I can safely say that wondering through the fields with Martin explaining the growing techniques and showing me all the produce was one of the best hours I have had in a long time. The sun was beating down and the views surrounding the farm were outstanding. I felt like I was in a little bit of organic farming paradise! Of course I know in reality how hard organic farming is and how it’s a constant battle against the elements and hungry birds. However, I couldn’t help romanticise slightly as I walked around the farm taking in these views. Martin was very kind in showing me around but I couldn’t help feeling that he wanted to be back on the farm so I suggested he left me to have a wonder around the rest of the farm on my own.
Before he left me to my own devises he introduced me to Clare and Leah. Known within the farm circle as the “salad gurus”. They were so sweet and took the time out of their salad bagging duties to tell me a little bit about what their role is on the farm. They told me how they nurture the salad leaves from seed to picking ready for bagging up. They are totally in charge from start to finish of the salad production which is fantastic. I buy their salad leaves regularly from the farmers market and the Real Food Store. At £1.99 a bag it is superb value in my opinion. The salad is so much more flavoursome than any leaves you could buy in the supermarket. Each bag is different which makes them unique. What makes them even more special are the beautiful edible flowers.WWOOF is as I had no idea. WWOOF is a worldwide organisation that offers working opportunities on organic farms. Started 45 years ago by Sue Coppard who experienced the first WWOOFING experience at Emerson College’s Tablehurst Farm in Sussex. They were given rural household tasks like cutting back brambles and clearing out ditches. In return for their time on the farm they were given wonderful fresh food and accommodation in the farmers cottages. I want to look into WWOOFING some more as it really interests me so watch this space!
After the tea, toast and nattering, Bridget took me down to the farm school. A small patch of Shillingford set aside for groups of children to learn how to grow fresh and organic produce as well as learning about nature and organic farming methods. They also have chickens and sheep so they can learn how to care for the animals. This is a pretty new venture for Shillingford but it seems to be proving popular. Such a great thing for children to do.
I sat on the bus in a complete state of bliss. Being out at the farm was so relaxing. I truly believe I am at my most happy amongst lovely people in the countryside. The three or four hours I was there was perfect from start to finish. The people I met were so welcoming, kind and extremely supportive of what I am doing with the blog. The highlights for me were walking around the farm with Martyn and meeting all the lovely folk there. What a lovely way to spend a morning. I got to find out where my vegetables are grown and who picks and prepares them. It will make the vegetables I eat from Shillingford Organics even more delicious now I have seen where they come from.
Why not get yourselves down to the farmers market next Thursday in Exeter or the Real Food Store where Shillingford deliver everyday. Pick up some ‘fresh from the field’ veggies and create a storm in the kitchen. Use your imagination or take a look at some of my recipes.
I have another “Veg Box Challenge” coming up in the near future using the Shillingford Organics veg box scheme. Look out for that as there will be lots of yummy recipes for you to follow.