I went to a fantastic event yesterday at a farm local to here. The National Organic Combinable Crops Conference (NOCC) is in its 11th year and I jumped at the chance to spend the day learning more about organic wheat growing and getting an insight into the farmer’s perspective. The event was hosted by Mark Lea at his family farm, Green Acres, about ten minutes drive from here at Kemberton. They run a diverse farm; arable, beef, sheep (a new venture this year) and taking in green waste from the local council to use as manure. Mark runs trials for The Organic Research Centre and it was fascinating to walk his fields to look at intercropping and the range of heritage and modern wheats he is trialling. These crops aren’t just for research though but are a commercial crop in their own right. The conference was really interesting. I had no idea that planting crops together, (intercropping), is not more likely to create competition between plants but instead the collaboration between these plants actually helps each plant grow stronger and improve yield. Basically, growing crops together helps them to share nutrients. We looked at soil (in a large hole) to learn how to read it for health. The most exciting thing for me, (apart from the delicious pastries and lunch from The Small Food Bakery) was being able to taste all of the different grains that Mark had grown on the farm last year baked in a biscuit by Kimberley Bell of said bakery. Having so many grains to compare at one time reveals how very different each variety of grain can be. It helped back up what I always say to students, feel how this bag of flour works, adapt as you need to.
I came home and looked at my little patch of wheat with new eyes. Here is how my patch looks today:
I am not sure that allowing the poppies to grow rather than pulling them up really counts as intercropping, but it sounds like an excellent excuse.
All seems well with my wheat so far, but the continued lack of rain is starting to tell in the garden. We really could do with some rain soon. The situation for some of the farmers at the conference is beginning to get critical for crop success this year. I am beginning to think that grain and flour is going to be more expensive from this year’s harvest.
So far I am really pleased with how the wheat is growing. I now need to research what to look out for in this next phase and plan for how I am going to harvest my lovely little patch of wheat. If I am lucky enough to get to that point, that is. I shouldn’t count my chickens before they hatch, or my wheat ears before they ripen. Watch this space.