Our History

 

 

I always say ‘by accident’ when asked how we came to be growing organically.

It wasn’t a conscious decision, there was no agricultural background, no formal horticultural training – it was all trials and tribulations and learning by our own mistakes – of which there were plenty!

 

It started out as a self sufficient dream when we left a housing estate in Hertfordshire in 1975 with our ‘guru’, John Seymour’s ‘A Complete Book of Self Sufficiency’ in hand and the hippy ideal in our hearts.

Goats, chickens, Grace the sow, sheep for spinning Robinson Crusoe garments, the whole shebang. We took the dream (narrated in A Fenland Smallholding) into the realms of eccentric extremes, only buying salt and coffee. Even then I recall one incident with a concoction of dandelion roots!!

We grew vegetables organically, just because we would never have considered any other way. However, bills still had to be paid and for these we began to sell the surplus of these vegetables.

In those days besides half a dozen of this and that to the local whole foods shop in Kings Lynn, most of it ended up on the conventional wholesale market.

Then in the mid 80s the supermarket stepped in and things began to take off. The next six or seven years were a steep learning curve. We expanded acreage and became more business minded, because we had to. About 99% of our produce was going into the multiples, which was fine when it was going well. We learnt quality control and about grade outs. Put simply that is the chunk of money deducted by the packer before you reach the bottom line on your return.

This sentence with the supermarkets has stood us in good stead with the quality and presentation of our produce, if nothing else.

The recession of the early 1990s marked an end of another era. Many small growers threw down their hoes at this stage and it was probably just sheer bloody mindedness that Strawberry Fields rode it out.

Stage three in the saga came in 1995 when Rick and I went our separate ways and I took leave of my senses. The neighbour’s farm was up for sale and I bought the adjoining, long coveted field, doubling Strawberry Field’s acreage. Establishing hedgerow boundaries, planning rotations etc helped me through a troubled time.

The gallery page shows four pairs of hands roped in with potato planting buckets when the land was under water one back end. Dicken, my son, recalls, aged 10, being kept off school to sit on the cabbage planter.

I insist they had the sort of childhood that childhoods are intended to be, though they may have their own views on this!

Now they are grown up Strawberry Fields is very much a family concern. Clyde and Dicken are business partners, my daughter Bryony does the payroll, Dicken’s partner Becky helps on a Saturday, my eldest Jade does the year end accounts and my partner John keeps the machinery wheels oiled and turning.

Two additional fields came out of conversion in 2013 bringing our acreage up to 53 acres.