This month’s Q&A is with Vicky Whiteley from Whiteley’s Farm and Farm Shop
Pumpkin gathering at Whiteleys Farm (photo thanks to Jen Chillingsworth ).
How long have you been farming?
Amazingly, this year will be our 30th anniversary. I know – I don’t look old enough!
How many acres does your farm cover?
We have just taken on some adjoining land which will double the size of the farm and bring the total area up to 60 acres.
What types of farming do you do?
As well as growing vegetables and salad greens, we also have a nursery where we grow herbs, plants, shrubs, bushes and trees. We keep free-range chickens and ducks and an apiary for our bees to produce honey. We sell all the produce in our on-site farm shop as well as at local farmers’ markets. As if that isn’t enough, we also run a landscape gardening business.
That seems to be a lot of work. How do you manage to keep on top of everything?
Honestly? Some days I have no idea! There are always jobs to do – planting, tending, watering, weeding as well as harvesting, loading the truck and selling in the shop and on the markets. In the summer we are working 12 to 16 hours a day which is a long hard six months. Winter means only working in daylight hours but it can feel longer especially in the cold, wet and snowy days.
As a farmer you are obviously at the mercy of the British weather to produce your locally grown produce. How does that affect your business?
Well there is only so much we can do to protect against bad weather conditions. The winter in 2011 was so hard all are vegetables just froze in the ground and then this was followed by a summer that was so wet we could not sow the seeds. We do what we can by growing under polytunnels, and choosing varieties that cope with our British weather.
What is your all-time favourite TV programme?
Have you had any odd requests at the farm?
Some time ago we were asked to provide all our scarecrows (we have eight at the moment) for a film set on some nearby allotments as they thought this would add a bit more interest to the scene.
Do scarecrows work?
Yes, we make them out of old clothes and use them to make the wood pigeons think there is someone in the field. Old, traditional methods have their uses, especially in the garden.
What is your favourite song?
Lettuce from America by the Proclaimers
Christmas is coming but what is next on the agenda for you?
Well, Christmas is a bit away for us just yet. Halloween means harvesting our pumpkins. There’s something fantastic about seeing a field of bright orange pumpkins and knowing they’ll be bringing joy to children. Pumpkins are becoming more and more popular – not only decorative but a great edible vegetable too. Don’t waste the flesh you cut out to make the lantern – make a delicious soup to serve on Bonfire night. So, if you want one, you can get yours this week at Oakwood Farmer’s Market.
What is your favourite Film?
Pumpkin Iron starring Arnold Schwarzenegger
Thank You Vicky