Hi, it's Lucy from Harvest on the Heath here!
I am one of your fruit & veg suppliers on the
food hub, and my husband Gareth and I have been part of the Tamar Grow Local family for
around four years. If you are interested in taking a glimpse into the life of a small producer,
then read on...
After working in botanical horticulture and conservation around the UK and beyond, we moved back to Gareth’s home county of Devon in 2018, where our shared love for growing plants and interest in sustainable food production led us to set up Harvest on the Heath Market Garden. We purchased a tiny bungalow with 2.5 acres of land near the village of St Giles on the Heath, and since moving here we have slowly but surely turned the bare field into a productive vegetable garden, mixed fruit orchard, cider apple orchard, wildflower meadow and polytunnel area, as well as expanding the small piece of woodland on the land to create an enticing habitat for wildlife.
We decided to grow using 'no-dig' methods to keep the structure and integrity of the soil
intact, and the vast majority of our crops are grown from organic seed from local suppliers.
All our produce is grown chemical-free. Instead, cultural methods are used to deter pests and
diseases - for example, hand-picking bugs; feeding crops with composts, mulches and ‘teas’;
companion planting; netting crops; chicken ‘tractors’; and timing sowings/plantings to avoid
certain pests. This all takes time and effort, and there are always some failures due to farming this way, but the result is healthy, seasonal fruit and veg which we are proud to supply to our local customers.
Our growing year starts in winter where we select and purchase seed for the year to come.
Trying out new varieties is always fun, although it is a bit of a gamble as to whether it will be
a hit with customers or not! Winter is also the perfect time to tidy and organise the potting
shed, clear and weed the veg beds, prune the apple trees and plant out the winter/early
spring crops in the polytunnel and outdoors. We have just planted out onions, broad beans
and two varieties of garlic outdoors, as well as sown winter salads and cool-loving herbs such
as coriander for the polytunnel.
Come spring, it is a busy time as we begin the hefty task of mulching all the beds and
beginning to sow seed for the season ahead. It's then a case of using Tetris-like skills to fit a
multitude of seed trays in the green house, potting on, hardening off, planting and direct
During the summer we use the 3000l capacity rainwater reserve to water the tomatoes,
aubergines, melons and chillies in the polytunnel, but when it comes to the plants outdoors,
we water them in and then that is it. Surprisingly, we get very little losses even in drought,
most likely due to the good soil structure. Plants can be pushed further than you think when it
comes to watering. As soon as the crops are ready to harvest, they will be photographed,
uploaded on to the Food Hub and – hopefully – snapped up by the customers!
When the leaves start to fall, my favourite harvest is ready to pick – the squashes and
pumpkins. I just love all the different varieties, colours and shapes that are available, and we
always try out a few new ones every year to keep it interesting. Autumn is also the time for our other favourite crop to be harvested, the chillies. Gareth and I are self-confessed chilli-
heads and this year we have grown around 15 different varieties spanning from mild and sweet to blow-your-head-off! My particular favourite this year is 'Bengal Whippet's Tail', which
is pretty poky and adds a lovely heat to curries and soups. We both love cooking, and always road-test the produce before we sell it so that we can provide a straight-from-the-horse's-
mouth description for you of how it tastes and suggestions for how to use it in cookery.
We love what we do, and we are very proud to be part of a sustainable food system that
works for the local people, land and economy. Our hopes for the future are to expand our
production areas so that we can offer even more tasty veg to customers!
In the pipeline is also a wildlife pond to encourage frogs (great help with the slug
populations), a nuttery and some hives for bees so that we can start producing our own honey.
Thank you for reading, and also thank you for supporting us and all the other amazing and
diverse producers on the Tamar Valley Food Hub.