Well, here we are in England! Being that I haven’t written in over a month (embarrassing!), you have no idea why we’re here! We decided to come on a trip with the Haygrove company – the one that helped us to build our ½ acre structure at our farm – which is based here in England, with the intention to learn a lot and stay on the cutting edge of what we’re doing. We haven’t been to England for 12 years (our honeymoon), and were eager to see it again – especially as part of a guided tour! When we were here last, we had a very difficult time getting around due to the “too-young-to-rent-a-car” clause, and spent a considerable amount of time figuring out the trains and bus systems. We looked forward to arriving and being catered to! We had a whole day in London to ourselves, before heading out to Kent, so we of course found a farmers’ market being held on the South Bank of the Thames – the Borough Market. Two words: foodie paradise!
What a neat space; no doubt there were some produce distributors present, but there seemed to be a genuine interest in keeping it as local and producer-based as possible. There were tons of local cheeses, meats, fruit & veg (as they say here) as well as international foods. We chose to tackle a chorizo/pequillo sandwich for lunch at the Spanish stand – clearly the most popular food stand at the market, with the longest line (cementing for me the notion that Spain is on the cutting edge of all areas of food!). Delicious! I was able to snag some dry Spanish peppers for seeds at this stand as well – a seed searcher never rests! We spent the rest of the day cruising around
We made our way to the village of Bobbing, in Sittingbourne, Kent. Too exhausted to figure out another eating option, we ate at the restaurant situated next door to our hotel, it was called the Bobbing Apple. We were amazed at how similar this restaurant was to something like a TGI Fridays! We ate as locally as we could and ordered the fish & chips. One thing is for sure – the Brits know how to fry a piece of fish! A splash of malt vinegar on the chips (fries), et voila! The perfect post-travel-been-up-for-over-24-hours-dinner! Gotta say, it sure hit the spot! Eager to get to bed to be able to wake up and meet the rest of the tour group, we hit the sack…
We awoke and decided to go for a run and explore our surroundings. There was a really nice footpath that we could catch right outside our hotel, thankfully, and while I ran my morning 5k, Spencer took his morning constitutional. It was perfect weather and we passed by several farms, some wild damson plum trees (plucked a few and downed those), wild raspberries (past ripe), and a beautiful apple orchard surrounded by a barbed-wire fence (blast!). Gorgeous morning – off to continental breakfast, a pot of Earl Grey tea, toast with black currant jam, and some organic yogurt – English cooked breakfast not an option this morning, will hope for it tomorrow (must have baked beans with my stewed tomato and eggs!)!
While waiting around for the Haygrove reps to come take us to Leeds Castle (the only agenda item that day), we met the other growers on this tour and quickly realized at what a completely different scale we are farming than all of them! Two guys from Florida, growing blueberries on 600 acres (!) and shipping globally (!), two guys from Michigan looking to grow cherry trees under cover, but already growing other things on 200 acres (!). One other guy from Oregon that already has about 100 irons in the fire also looking to put cherry trees under cover. All of these guys use an immigrant/migrant labor force, have an incredible overhead in massive amounts of equipment (berry pint filling machines!) I must say, I’m mighty proud to be able to tell all these guys that we are making a living on 2, count ‘em, TWO acres, with two people plus a little harvest help. Their jaws drop, and all of them resolve to get smaller one day. The smaller, concrete scale is so much easier to swallow. What a great day we had chatting with these guys whose favorite topic happens to be our favorite topic, too! Let’s just say there’s never a break in conversation, really – we’re all so interested in the different models of farming and different trends in consumer habits – it provides endless hours of discussion time! Oh yeah, and the Leeds Castle was quite nice, too and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect! Tomorrow we get to see some Haygrove operations here – we’ll post pictures as soon as we have them!