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News from Hughes

Good morning
Taking stock of the glasshouse today it is showing signs of plenty. Tomatoes are well formed and a small amount of Cherries have already been sampled. Aubergines are emerging with deep, rich purple skin. Both will soon be ready soon.
Mini Cucumbers have have fared well but Peppers are further behind having needed much “defruiting” to help them recover from the earlier aphid infestation.
Early Beans are cropping well but the second planting is less substantial after suffering stress in the initial heatwave and then from the subsequent cold as it disappeared. They are recovering now and should start yielding in the next few weeks.
In this season of extreme weather there have been several problems. We have had temperatures in excess of 40c on numerous occasions and this is always challenging.
But the heatwave that prompted the melon aphid outbreak that killed the Early Courgettes has also aided the massive Ladybird population that has taken over of pest control with astonishing efficiency. An Aphid is hard to find at the moment, let’s hope it stays that way. At this time of the year Red Spider becomes the main concern and we may need some help with that with some more specialist predators.
Mid July is the time everything really starts to bear fruit. Generally the crops look promising and we look forward with hopeful anticipation.
Best wishes
Grahame and Lizzie Hughes

The Next Government Must Prioritise Soil

*Soil Association website, 28th April 2017.

soil-95-stat-no-logoIn the run-up to the general election, we’re urging all parties to commit to protecting and restoring soil health in their manifestos – as part of a new vision for agriculture that promotes a holistic landscape approach to farming and transitions to a more environmentally sustainable and resilient food and farming system.

Healthy soils are essential for food security, climate change and public health. Yet, soils have been neglected and left to deteriorate.  Almost a third of the world’s arable soils have been lost to erosion and pollution over the last 40 years, and it will take hundreds or thousands of years for these degraded soils to recover naturally.  In the UK, we lose an estimated 2.2 million tonnes of topsoil each year, costing around £45 million per year, of which £9 million is in lost production and reduced yields.

It’s essential that the new Government acts to stop the loss of UK soils.

A key measure of soil health is levels of soil organic matter (SOM), which is crucial for long-term yields, food quality, extreme weather resilience, and as a vital store of soil carbon. Increasing the organic content of British agricultural soils would be game-changing. By increasing the SOM level in degraded UK soils by 20% over the next 20 years, UK soils would provide better defence against flooding by reducing run-off and would dramatically increase the yield and quality of food produced.

The new Government should provide soil stewardship payments to incentivise farmers to increase the organic matter in the soil and make improving soil health a requirement of all farm tenancies.

Increasing SOM also increases soil carbon levels. Healthy soils act as a carbon sink by drawing carbon down into the soil to store it. Improving soil health is therefore a critical way to tackle climate change. Recognizing the ability of soil to sequester carbon and its contribution to climate mitigation, the UK signed onto the French government’s the 4 per 1000 soil carbon initiative at the UN Climate Change Convention in Paris. This initiative aims to increase soil organic carbon by 0.4% each year.

The next Government should establish the regular monitoring and reporting of soil organic matter by farmers to form a national database to inform future soil health research and data collection.

Given that healthy soils boost productivity and resilience, farmers have an obvious incentive to increase SOM. However, often they rely on cheap and plentiful nitrogen fertiliser instead. Applying artificial fertiliser is often cheaper, at least in the short term, than building soil fertility. By using cover crops to fix nitrogen from the air and build organic matter in the soil, they would create a healthier soil ecosystem for their crops, increase soil biodiversity and reduce erosion.

Any agriculture policy proposed by the new Government must increase support for cover crops.

Improving the SOM and soil carbon levels in UK soils should be a priority for the incoming UK government. Not only would such an approach increase yields but it would also help mitigate the impacts of climate change by helping to sequester carbon and reduce emissions.

Soil protection is one of our top manifesto asks for all parties.  Until Tuesday 2 May, it’s still possible to email your current MP to let them know that soil health matters to you.  You can email your MP easily from here.  If you have your own ideas for food and farming priorities, please share them too.  Not all candidates for the general election have been selected yet but, if they have in your area, now is also a good time to contact them.

https://www.soilassociation.org/blogs/2017/april/the-next-government-must-prioritise-soil/

Cathi Pawson – Zaytoun. Soil Association Interview

hi-res-logoZaytoun is the UK social enterprise which launched Fairtrade organic olive oil from Palestine to British customers in 2009. Having started as a grassroots initiative to support Palestinian farmers who had lost overseas markets, back in 2004, the company has grown steadily to achieve sales of over £1 million, with an office in central London.

How did Zaytoun begin/get started?

The initiative for trading olive oil as a means for supporting Palestinian farmers came from the founders’ trips to Palestine in 2003. International borders had just reopened after the intifada, but in the meantime the export market for olive oil had been lost to Jordanian producers. The harvest of 2003 was a bumper one, and having tasted the beautiful oil I and my co-founders Heather, Atif and Sal determined to try and sell some of it in the UK. I was working for then MEP Caroline Lucas at the time, and to highlight her trip to Palestine we had been selling the olive oil at street stalls. I knew it created a talking point, and a tangible way for people in Britain to connect with, and support Palestinian farming communities. Good food is a universal connector of peoples, a reason to get together, a way of talking about each other’s lives that, in the case of Palestinian olive oil, wasn’t head-on about the confrontations and violence of the occupation.

As a company, we owe much of our success to a vigorous network of distributors and supporters around the country, who are passionate about good food, Fairtrade and supporting Palestinian family farmers through trade.  From the very beginning people have volunteered to hold stalls, visit Palestine with us, offer talks and even invest in our company. We remain a very ‘human-scale’ company – relatively small, though we hope our impact is large, and still very much connected to our customers as well as to the farmer cooperatives who have grown with us through the years.

Why organic?

Supporting those farmers to achieve organic certification for their olive oil was an easy choice to make, as they also prepared for Fairtrade certification and brought traceability and best practice into their operations. Most small farmers in Palestine already grow organically, relying on low-tech local solutions to manage pests and boost the productivity of their crops as the import of chemicals is banned under the occupation. In this way, skills and traditions that have been passed down for generations in Palestinian families are now increasingly important as their overseas customers are choosing high-quality, organically grown products. In a land where access to clean water and fertile land is made scarce, these resources become even more precious. Along with the farmers who grow our products, we see organic growing as a foundation for resilient livelihoods and environmental sustainability.

What role does the Soil Association play for you?

Working with the Soil Association has been very supportive, increasing the profile of our own organic products but also for the farmers who grow them, and for whom the certification process was entirely new when they began, several years ago.

What’s next for you and Zaytoun?

We are constantly innovating, looking for new products to add to our range so that we can support more farming communities and delight more customers. We are reaching out to new customers through the resurgence of interest in fine foods and cuisine from around the world. It is exciting to be increasingly working in partnership with other Fairtrade and organic brands as well as well-known chefs and food writers to bring the rich heritage of Palestinian food culture to more British customers.

Website www.zaytoun.org

Twitter https://twitter.com/Zaytoun_CIC

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ZaytounUK

Latest from the glasshouse

Good morning.
There is a little bit more of September about the air now.
The exceptionally hot spell seriously boosted Tomato ripening and also extended some extra late development of Aubergines, both very welcome. Tomatoes are picking high in the vines now and are slower ripening as the temperatures fall. They will be few after this week and Aubergines will be the same. Then it will be a concentrated planting time as we replace with Winter and Spring crops.
Outside Broccoli is abundant from the Breckland farm and Pointed Cabbage will follow at the end of this week.
In Lincolnshire the Potato harvest is nearing it’s end and we will resume Winter produce from there early next month with Beetroot ,Kales and Cauliflower as well as Potatoes.
That will mark a major shift in season.
Best wishes,
Grahame and Lizzie Hughes

Fresh News from Hughes Organics

Good morning
There is a little bit more of September about the air now.
The exceptionally hot spell seriously boosted Tomato ripening and also extended some extra late development of Aubergines, both very welcome. Tomatoes are picking high in the vines now and are slower ripening as the temperatures fall. They will be few after this week and Aubergines will be the same. Then it will be a concentrated planting time as we replace with Winter and Spring crops.
Outside Broccoli is abundant from the Breckland farm and Pointed Cabbage will follow at the end of this week.
In Lincolnshire the Potato harvest is nearing it’s end and we will resume Winter produce from there early next month with Beetroot ,Kales and Cauliflower as well as Potatoes.
That will mark a major shift in season.
Best wishes
Grahame and Lizzie Hughes

Latest news from our suppliers

Good morning
With the rather pleasant Autumn weather looking set to continue we should see our new plantings get away quickly. With Summer crops in rapid decline they will be welcome.
We just have remnants of Courgettes, Beans and Cucumber now; Aubergines and Peppers are rapidly depleting although Tomatoes are still abundant and will continue to enjoy the bright weather.
Chard is growing rapidly, also enjoying the warmth. It is taking the place of the Summer crops and will be followed by more Autumn leaves as time progresses.
Sowing and planting continue.
Best wishes
Grahame and Lizzie Hughes

Latest from Hughes 22/08/16

Good morning
As some of the early summer crops have started to clear we have been able to get some Autumn Chard, Salads and Spinach going to take us into the next season. It will be back to leaves. In the meantime the fruiting crops of Tomatoes, Aubergine and Peppers are reaching their peak over the next couple of weeks. As ever Summer seems to have passed in a flash. In the Glasshouse the crops have run pretty well but the field crops are still challenging. Onions are likely to be scarce and roots still a slight unknown. Squash are reportedly small from Bedlams but we wait to hear of the crop at Wakelyn’s. Later planted Brassicas should have fared ok but delayed planting in poor conditions will be challenging to continuity. We will see how it all unfolds but few seasons have been as difficult as this.
Best wishes,
Grahame and Lizzie Hughes

A word from Hughes

As we approach August we find ourselves concentrating on our own Glasshouse production and that of Breckland Organics. With orders for other field crops typically low, we find it uneconomic to collect from Woodlands Farm in Lincolnshire who often supply cauliflower and calabrese among other things.
In the meantime we have a good harvest from the Glasshouse with many crops now in full flow.. Brecklands have had many weather related problems and the Onion crop is one casualty, not reaching a suitable size. However they are able to salvage some smaller grade for us to use, and that should supply us until the New Year at least. Many Onion crops have been lost in East Anglia as a result of mildew, the scourge of wet seasons, so we are fortunate.
We are waiting to hear about Sweetcorn which also suffered in the rainy season but should have enjoyed the warmer, drier July.
I will keep you updated but the availability will change little over the next few weeks although we should have a full range of heritage Tomatoes from the end of this week so they will come available.
Best wishes
Grahame and Lizzie Hughes

A word from Grahame and Lizzie 20/06/16

Good morning
Growth has been far from rampant in the last week. Courgettes are a good barometer and yields have been around 30% less than last year.Other crops are progressing slowly but Celery and Beans are still about 10 days away.
Peppers and Aubergine are showing better colour as they establish roots but Tomatoes look particularly strong.
So we are waiting for the weather to improve and the signs are more hopeful.
With so little to harvest we have time to clear up and prepare some more space for the later Beans and some Salads. So we will be full again by the end of the week and looking to start to empty I hope.
Best wishes
Grahame and Lizzie Hughes