Pitney Farm Visit with Rob Whaldron
Sam and I headed off to Pitney farm armed with a satnav and without wellington boots; we would later find out these are a necessity on a farm. Rob Whaldron greeted us and brought us to see his pride and joy – his organic vegetables.
He uses no sprays or pesticides, the farm is 100% organic and the mounds of manure are testament to that. He has various tricks for keeping flies and insects at bay; he has viola flowers / plants beside his tomato vines and they are scattered around most drills as they act as a decoy to the insects and confuse them.
He walked us through the produce ready for picking now and what’s in season this year. He had the most amazing tomatoes which are so sweet and ripe, his courgettes looked terrific, as did my forever friend the courgette flower. This year has been extremely tough for farmers as the weather has been so unpredictable. We had a great April and since then it’s been unseasonably poor weather. Mother Nature is a bit off course following the “Indian Summer” last year, most harvests are behind or worst case scenario a scrap. Soft fruits have been hit the hardest with cherries, plums and peaches being a no show. He then showed us his drills of celeriac, squashes and pumpkins and explained the importance of foresight for a farmer: they have to plan their crops 6 – 8 months in advance and have it spot on, as a week or 2 either way could be disastrous. The celeriacs looked amazing and might make an early showing, as our late summer companion the Grouse is making its debut on the 12th of August.
We then looked at the free range hens which is where the wellies would have come in handy. For those who haven’t been in a hen pen they love jeans, boots and especially laces – it’s the worm resemblance I’m guessing. They kept pecking and for the life of me I could not concentrate on what Rob was saying. Sam found it hilarious, fortunately, as at one stage he was surrounded by hundreds. I was amazed that a standard hen produces 6 eggs a week for their first 2 years of its laying life and they then they go through a malting stage and when they come out of that they produce much less. Most farms replace the stock, but Rob keeps his Hens through the moulting stage and tries to sell them on to families that want a hen which I thought was an ethical approach. The hens have a great life and have a really open site; it was amazing to see ‘free range’ in action.
Next up was our friend the Saddleback Pig, a native to the West Country. An amazing, intelligent animal they are great to look at and despite common misconception they are a very clean animal. Once again free range is the way and they have a really great life. They came hustling over to us, snouts in the air to check me and Sam out- a really friendly animal. He separates them out after careful breeding and has 8 – 10 pens. He uses a continental bull crossed with a thorough bred saddleback and reckons it’s the best cross for a great fat and meat content.
Last but not least were the Lambs; we got a quick picture, but sadly didn’t get a chance to go in amongst them as the Heavens then opened and further increased our longing for waterproof footwear. Rob has a fantastic farm shop and he gave us some great sausages. We also got a few tomatoes so had some cracking breakfast sandwiches with HP when we got back- as they say the proof was in the eating, the sausages were fantastic and the fresh tomato a shining star.