Things were moving at a cracking pace went I visited Organic Pantry second time round, with the main planting season in full flow. New temporary faces in the workforce and lots of prayers for rain, but not too much rain of course!
Located between Leeds and York, Organic Pantry is the trading front to St Helen’s Farm owned and run by Jonnie and Fanny Watson. The farm covers some 300 acres of rolling fields, with a significant proportion used as Organic Pantry to produce organic veg for both wholesale and direct sell through the farm shop. As such The Organic Pantry is very much at the top end, size wise, of farms and small holdings which I visited, and feels much more like a business operation than most of the other inspiring but fragile operations on my tour.
To match market demand seen by Organic Pantry, Jonnie and Fanny grow over 50 varieties of vegetable and salad crops – most of which need planting in early summer. As winter draws to an end, mass seed sowing begins in the temperature regulated incubation sheds, then as the days really lengthen and the temperature nudges up, tray upon tray of seedlings are moved outside to harden up and the mass plant out begins. At the same time the last of the winter crops are there for harvesting. Busy time!
The scale is such that extra temporary labour has to be brought in. It was interesting to come face to face with a group of East Europeans, transient economic migrants, who were filling the manpower needs and whose presence seems to be such a controversial issue in the UK right now. I must admit to feeling very uncomfortable with the antagonistic and devisive talk that comes from many politicians on the subject. Photographing the group though something began to emerge which was more than just a feeling – more than just being uncomfortable – as the thought started to emerge that ‘they’ are perhaps not the trouble. Rather, perhaps, our way of life, or more specifically the nature of our economy is the problem. We have jobs all over in this country which native Britains do not want to take, it is in effect not worth their while. Perhaps this is the problem, not the fact that people move here from outside Britain and fill those gaps. Perhaps we are in effect living beyond our means, we have a way of life which demands more income than the country and its resources can actually afford. We have the illusion of plenty when in fact it’s another variation on the smoke and mirror illusions of the banking world which so dominates our economics. In not having Brits wanting to take up such jobs are we not mortgaging some sort of future? I don’t know, but it was a nagging thought as I wandered round the fields being planted and saw people, real people just like me, who were here out of just wanting to improve their lot in life. It’s not the first time such influxes have occurred – take for example the mid 19th century road building programme carried out on the backs of Irish navvies. Just that same thing – I just get nervous that it can’t go on forever. That at some point the bubble will pop, not in some sort of loss of Britishness but as in economic reality kicking in. We might just not have enough ‘high paid’ jobs in the country to meet people’s aspirations!
Gosh this is getting a bit heavy, the pictures of a thought-provoking day among the planting and harvesting team at Organic Pantry……..
For more on Organic Pantry see my first post from there.
[Double clicking on any of the images below will open up that image up in a slideshow format. You can then run the slide show using ‘left’ and ‘right’ buttons. Personally I prefer to go also to full screen having opened the slide show – F11 on my PC, don’t forget to get out of full screen is the same button , not ESC