Beneath its panes of glass, with their protection from wind and intensification of the warmth of the sun, Growing with Grace was bathed in green. In its midst was as 80 odd year old WOOFER, calmly and pragmatically working her way through a green jungle!
Growing With Grace was set up almost 20 years ago by Neil Marshall and partner when they bought some 3 acres of greenhouse covered land from a failed bedding plant nursery just outside of Settle in North Yorkshire. Since then the site has been run as a community-owned Cooperative and Social Enterprise and used to produce a wide range of salad and vegetable crops grown to Soil Association organic standards. The produce is sold in the immediate vicinity and in nearby Lancaster through a weekly veg box scheme and an on-site shop which is packed to the rafters with organic and fair trade produce. Sited alongside the busy A65, if you are travelling that way watch out for the carrot signs to count you down to the turn off in motorway style!
In striving towards climate friendly, sustainable agriculture, Growing With Grace are not just organic, but stock free organic. In other words there are no animal inputs used for fertilising the soil, the belief being that this ensures that the vegetables, salad and fruit are grown with as little impact on the environment as possible, and is a show of support for animal welfare within food production. Soil fertility is instead being built up by using Growing with Grace‘s own compost produced entirely from green waste which is collected from the local community by Craven District Council and delivered to the site rather than it going to landfill. Director and co-founder Neil points out that the result is that the soil on the site has undergone a dramatic change from being ill used and neglected in the bedding plant business to the rich, living, fertile land it is now.
That fertility and the protection offered by the glass houses which cover the site means – if you get your plantings right – luxuriant growth, providing a challenge to grower, Cara, in keeping up with crop harvesting whilst maintaining a programme of successional sowing of salad and the like. However the conditions are not only beneficial to crop producing plants but others with seemingly little purpose in the glasshouse other than being a ‘weed’. Whilst biodiversity is to be welcomed, its all pervading presence here if left unchecked is definitely not!
So it was on the day I visited when WWOOFER, Catherine, was busy hacking her way through some of the most jungle-like parts of the site. Nothing too surprising there you might think. WWOOF is an incredible scheme linking people with opportunities to get close to earth and help grow food right across the world on a voluntary basis – true social enterprise – but Catherine was not your typical WWOOFER. Having lived for some years as an ex-pat in Portugal and Spain Catherine was re-introducing herself back into the UK through a programme of WWOOF secondments whilst being well on her eighties! Her calm, laid back approach belied her years, an example and inspiration to all – and particularly those of us of more mature years. How apt that within the green wonderland a large sign loomed out proclaiming the need in sustainable practice to ‘Re-use Old Thing’. You really are never to old to be useful!
For more on World Wide Opportunities in Organic Farming (WWOOF), see the organisations website, or use the search facility here to track down accounts of other WWOOFing locations which I visited.
[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]