Our new organic veg stall is proving incredibly popular, thanks to the array of fresh and colourful produce which appears each week. So, what’s the full story behind ‘The Goonies’? It’s time we properly introduced you to these green-fingered legends!
How did it all begin?
Goonown Growers is an organic growing cooperative established by three families who moved to Cornwall to embark on their new project together earlier this year.
Led by Ed Sweetman and Rob Alderson, jointly they have a wealth of experience working at large organic market gardens in other parts of the country (Purton House Organics and Glebelands City Growers in Manchester are both providing inspiration for their Cornish enterprise) but spotted a gap in the market for a steady supplier of good quality organic veg here in Cornwall.
Where does the produce come from?
The main market garden site is at Goonown near St Agnes, but the busy growers are also about to start planting in a polytunnel near Stithians to help them diversify and keep up with demand.
At Goonown they rent a relatively small field which until recently was common pasture. Today it’s a highly productive market garden, carefully designed to achieve maximum yields and maintain productivity all year round.
It’s one of those projects which is simple and ambitious, traditional and progressive all at the same time, and Rob and Ed hope that it will help will more local people enjoy the freshest, organically grown veg as a result.
What do they grow?
The answer to this is as much as possible! The challenge is to produce a variety of great veg throughout the year. During the warmer months, the staples of market gardening (tender veg and salad crops) rocket up through the ground and jet off to market in the blink of an eye.
“Our aim is to use environmentally-beneficial methods to grow tasty food crops we can harvest manually,” explains Ed. “With clever techniques and a quick route to market, we can sell our produce at an affordable price, while employing local people and paying them a living wage.” It sounds so rudimentary but bizarrely in the current food system it’s quite an unusual approach!
What are the challenges?
In the winter, growing a diverse selection of veg is much more challenging. However, with a little creative thinking and a lot of knowledge, Rob and Ed hope to be tempting our regulars with a great choice of fresh vegetables through the dark winter months.
Their new polytunnel will help extend the growing season of many popular lines, and they will experiment with some more unusual crops from around the world to provide colour, diversity and great taste throughout the year.
Why grow organically?
It will take around two years until Goonown Growers receive official organic certification through The Soil Association, and they estimate three more years until optimal biodiversity and soil health is achieved. It’s a rigorous process and growing organically presents many challenges, but Ed and Rob have considerable experience to draw on, although the Cornish climate poses its own challenges…
“We’re still getting to know the soil on our patch and how it responds to different factors,” explains Rob. “We are yet to see a full annual growing cycle here so we’re learning all the time.” Caterpillars, slugs, wireworm and wind damage are all problems for which natural solutions must be found.
Despite the challenges Rob, Ed and the rest of the team are committed to growing organically, believing that it is the most sustainable and environmentally friendly way to produce really tasty, healthy food. Nurturing soil health and encouraging biodiversity are at the heart of this approach, as is the other major factor in sustainable agriculture – the involvement of the local community.
How can people get involved?
Goonown Growers is a community supported agriculture scheme, which means that local people share the work, risks and rewards of food production; the hope is that schemes like this will allow people to understand, partake in, and direct local food production once again.
“We want to teach, we want to engage, we want to learn, we want to have fun, but above all we want to get local people involved in the project as much as possible,” says Rob.
Small groups of volunteers are able to visit the site with prior organisation, and, recognising the physical and mental health benefits they can offer, the growers want it to become a hub of community life.
Social sessions and community feasts are on the cards in the future once Covid-19 restrictions ease up, but for now one of the best ways to support the project is to visit the Goonown Growers stall at Truro Farmers Market!