Sunday, 8 March 2020

Spring jobs

March is a busy month on the farm. With the increased light levels, longer days and milder temperatures, plants really start growing strongly this month. At the other end of the year it's late September when plants really start to slow down.

Now hedge cutting is finished (birds should be starting to nest soon), it's all about getting plants started in the glasshouse, and other things direct sown/planted outdoors. 

The shelves in the glasshouse are rapidly filling up and it's time to start planting out lots of crops very soon, to make room for the next lot. That's the gamble this time of year - it can be warm and sunny, but also cold and windy, which sets plants back. The grower's gamble!

I have cultivated a few fields so far, sown all the carrots and will be planting potatoes this week.It's really important at this stage to get plants in the ground that can take being out this early, and ensure they're established.

April and May continues to be about sowing and planting, but also about keeping on top of weeds, which sure as hell follow after sowing and planting! 

So it's quite a tough going season spring, but that's always countered by the wonderful spring days with bright light and warm sun, birds singing and spring flowers coming thick and fast. 

It's important to appreciate this time of year after along winter. If you don't, summer will be here in no time and the fresh green of spring fades away.

Monday, 17 February 2020

Apprentice grower wanted

Please note the deadline for applications has now closed.
We are looking for an apprentice grower at our small organic market garden on the Isles of Scilly. Growing fruit and veg for local outlets, this is a great opportunity to learn more about commercial organic horticulture, alongside the head grower.

Ideal candidates for this job will have had some experience of commercial horticulture, either paid or voluntary, and be keen to learn skills that will enable them to become a competent grower in organic fruit and vegetable production.

Covering all aspects of production, from seed sowing to harvest, this is a varied and interesting job in a beautiful location. You have the chance to learn at first hand skills that have been learnt from 20 years of experience by head grower
Jonathan Smith, including business skills and all relevant theory.

This post runs from early April to late September and is based on five days a week from 8am to 5pm. We provide you with independent accommodation, £120 per week and free vegetables. 2 weeks paid holiday is included.

For full details please email 

Closing date for applications is 2nd March 2020.

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Winter on the farm

I'm often asked "what happens in the winter on the farm?". Partly it's delivered with curiousness, and partly with disbelief that there would be more than a morning's work a week to do! Well, dear reader I can assure you that there's plenty to keep me going in the winter and by this time of year I get a bit stressed about the forthcoming growing season and not being prepared!

Firstly there's seaweeding, which takes places mostly in November and December as soon as the first storms have brought some in to Lawrences Beach.

This goes on to about one third to a half of the veg fields, plus a bit more for making compost. It's a valuable and free commodity, but takes a lot of effort to collect up and spread on the fields. But this forms the basis of a fertile growing system on these very sandy soils.

Next up for the big jobs is hedge cutting. We cut our Euonymous and Pittosporum hedges on the farm on a three year rotation. This ensures that (a) there isn't to much to do in one year, and (b) there is a variation in hedge size and density for nesting birds. We have about 3/4 mile of hedges on the farm!

Every Saturday we pick veg for locals, which can include salad, kale, chard, cauliflowers, purple sprouting, squash, carrots, spinach, parsley and other things. This helps everyone not to get scurvy on the island!

As soon as we get in to January then it's time to start sowing, planting and drilling new crops. So we have to make sure there are enough seeds in, compost is ordered, seed potatoes arrive in time, etc. 

Then there's pruning, woodland management, scrub management, grass cutting, grafting, paper work, various office jobs, machinery maintenance, etc, etc. 

As you can see winters are far from slack! 

Monday, 21 October 2019

Assistant Grower position for 2020

Please note applications for this position have now closed.

We're recruiting! 

From early April to mid/late September 2020 we require an Assistant Grower to work on our small organic fruit and veg 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.

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.

Please note this position is not suitable for those without suitable experience of commercial veg growing. It is not a trainee position, so please do not apply unless you have had some relevant experience.

For full details, terms and conditions please email Jonathan Smith

Closing date for applications is midnight November 22nd 2019.

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!