Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Helicopter collection

The Cornwall Air Ambulance is a wonderful thing, providing that real life line link between remote places in Scilly and Cornwall, with the medical care that they need. Incredibly, this isn't funded by Government, but is a charity that exists to keep the helicopter flying every day of the year.

We're pleased that our customers have contributed over £100 to the cause last year, with hopefully another good donation to come this year. This is just through the collection box on our veg stall.

Thank you!

Wednesday, 31 July 2019


I am currently working on a project called CIRC4Life, which aims to create new Circular Economy solutions for businesses. This is about creating less waste, using less resources, reducing carbon emissions and bringing producers and consumers closer together.

As part of this we would like to ask you to take part in a consumer survey, to understand your attitudes towards recycling, reuse and food buying habits. If you have a spare ten minutes could you fill out this survey please? 

Thanks in advance!

Sunday, 14 July 2019

A day in the life

You might be curious about how a day on the farm here looks like. It depends what season you're talking about, for summer is very different to winter. But as we're in summer now, let's concentrate on the farm in the summer months.

Let's assume it's one of those lovely sunny mornings. After a ten minute walk to work, taking in the beauty of the island in the clear morning light, I arrive somewhere between 7.30 and 8am to open up the polytunnels and glasshouse. You don't want heat building up too quick, as it'll be plenty hot enough in there by early afternoon.

Then it's straight to the salad fields, as this is the crop that will wilt quickest in the heat. It must be picked fresh and cool. We pick between 2 and 6kg per day, 6 days per week. This can take from 30 mins to 1 1/2 hours to do, so on busy days I like to start picking at 7.30. Occasionally, when there is a real time pressure to get an order out early, a much earlier start happens!

Once the salad is picked it's back to the packing shed to bag the salad, then on with the next crops. The next crops to get in are the ones growing in polytunnels, including cucumbers, tomatoes, grapes and basil. Next it's outdoor crops such as courgettes or kale. Lastly will be potatoes and carrots, which are less sensitive to heat.

Once all the crops are portioned up (bagged, bunched and weighed), orders are put together. On the easiest days this is just to our veg stall, but for four days a week this also means deliveries to other businesses. Two of these days will mean getting to the quay to deliver on the launch or post boat, which arrive at specific times. It can always be quite a juggle getting there on time!

Later morning is a time for tidying up and doing a few small jobs, before a well earned lunch. Afternoons are for planting, weeding, sowing, mending tractors, woodwork...a whole host of possible jobs that are needed to keep the farm going.

However what always puts a spanner in the works is a hot afternoon. Apart from being really tiring to work in and the desire to be lying on the beach a stone's throw away is overwhelming, it's actually a bad time to do anything except perhaps weeding. Planting - they'll just wilt; watering - no point; sowing - too hot in the glasshouse.

Also throw in to the equation that hot days mean lots of watering, but there's no point starting that until 6pm at the earliest. So given the amount of hours needed, it makes more sense to go back to the office, and/or spend some family time in the afternoon.

After dinner it's back down to the farm to water tunnels, glasshouse and anything outside that needs perking up. Often this is finished after sunset, rewarded with a walk home in the darkening sky and last of the day's bird song. 

But when do I fit in those jobs in the tunnel (like sideshooting tomatoes), sowing in the glasshouse, or planting 700 lettuce - without them frazzling in the following day's sun? We growers fret over the daily, weekly and monthly weather forecast, for good reason. Knowing what you can do, when is key to the grower's success and planning.

It's a great and rewarding job to do, but presents a lot of challenges and long hours. All for very little pay. You have to be very committed to make it work!

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Assistant grower position


We're recruiting! From early June to late September we require an Assistant Grower to work on our small farm on the Isles of Scilly. The position is paid and comes with free accommodation.

Scilly Organics is an organic market garden growing a range of veg crops for local sales, specialising in salad. We also grow some fruit, herbs and flowers. Growing on approx 5 acres, most of the work is manual. The farm doesn't have any animals, and is vegan organic horticulture by default.

This position would suit someone who has completed a trainee grower or apprenticeship position, and now wants to step up in terms of responsibility. As Assistant Grower you would be responsible for day to day management including sowing, planting, weeding and harvesting. You would work on your own at times, and together with the head grower at other times. Through the season there will also be a trainee grower for short periods, who you would be managing.

This is a chance to live and work in an exceptionally beautiful location, whilst learning skills, techniques and an approach to step up to managing or owning an organic growing business.

For full details, terms and conditions please email Jonathan Smith

Closing date for applications is midnight Sunday 21st April.

Thursday, 28 February 2019


Recently a very alarming report came out about the state of the world's insects. Over the past decade 41% of insects have disappeared. That's nearly a half!

Think about that for a bit, and its implications. All the myriad of birds, animals and other organisms that are inter-dependent on insects to support food webs. Oh, and humans - no insects means no pollination, which means most of our fruit and vegetables don't exist. Half in ten years! That's heading for rapid extinction in a human generation.

The causes? Principally agricultural practices and climate change. A lot of emphasis in the report was put on the need for widespread sustainable farming practices, especially organic - and that consumers should support this by buying organic produce.

Bumblebee on Phacelia at Scilly Organics
Here on the farm at St Martin's I'm pleased to say we have high levels of insect activity. A lot of the farm is left for wild flowers, which attract insects throughout the spring, summer and autumn. You even see some activity on mild winter days.

We also grow lots of green manures, including the wonderful Phacelia, seen above adorned with bees. These crops not only provide a great habitat for insects, they also improve the soil and reduce levels of weeds.

Taking a whole farm approach to improving biodiversity is critical, but it too often focuses on the top down approach - i.e. mammals and birds down. We would do well to reverse that and think of plants and insects first instead. The scary report is a stark reminder of that.

Monday, 14 January 2019

Scilly Organics carbon footprint

Every year we try to complete a carbon footprint analysis of Scilly Organics, using the Farm Carbon Calculator. Unfortunately we didn't complete it in 2017, but here is the comprehensive analysis from 2018.

The reason for doing it is to understand what is happening in terms of the carbon released during all the activities to produce vegetables, as well as all the carbon being sequestered (stored) in all our soils, trees and hedges. It is a very comprehensive process

The results are quite stark. In total the business emits just over 4 tonnes of CO2 per year, mostly from fuels, capital items (embodied energy in things like steel, concrete and tractors), fertility (nitrous oxide from green manures and compost), and materials (bought in things like timber, steel, plastics of various sorts).

To put this in context the average UK per capita carbon footprint is about 12 tonnes of CO2 per year.

The counterbalance to emissions is sequestration - the carbon absorbed in organic matter in soils, and various biomass on the farm. This came out at more than a staggering 64 tonnes of CO2, i.e. 16 times what was emitted. In short that is very good news!

Most sequestration is happening in the soil, which is an endorsement of our soil management policy (add lots of organic matter, minimise tillage, cover the ground where possible). Furthermore we have quite an area of woodland and a lot of very productive hedges, all of which are busy sucking in CO2 and storing it in their biomass.

What this shows is that Scilly Organics is an example of a farm which absorbs far more carbon than it emits, meaning every purchase from us is a positive one in climate terms. Every farm could, and should, be doing something like this from a carbon perspective.

If you'd like to see the full carbon footprint analysis you can get the detail on our website here