Organic Produce

Organic 2 HERO

We're proud of the expertise and local knowledge our organic producers bring to the job.

Brian Hepburn knows the land at Mid Coul Farms like the back of his hand. He's been working in their fields, on the Moray Firth, near Inverness, since he was boy, and these days farms over 3,000 acres - that's the same area as almost 2,000 football pitches.

The Scottish climate and good, fertile soil make it one of the best places in the UK to grow organic carrots, swede and parsnips, which are produced only for Tesco.
The farm also keeps organic sheep and cows, so they can rotate crop and livestock to build fertility in the soil and control weeds, pests and diseases.

Over in nearby Elgin, Brian's friend Willie Mitchell is another life-long carrot grower, and believes in keeping things in the family. He farms there with his brothers Duncan and Alan, and their sons are learning the ropes of the organic business too.

The freezing cold temperatures make his land - he also farms in Turriff, in Aberdeenshire - the best place to keep late season carrots. They're stored in the ground with a layer of plastic, underneath 40 bales of straw to protect them from the elements, giving them the chance to "snooze" until they're harvested early in spring.

But in order to keep organic carrots on the shelves all year round, we have to grow all over the UK. In Norfolk, James Webb, who insists on the highest standards of farm management, animal husbandry and proper stewardship of the countryside, offers the earliest and tastiest new season produce and also grows organic parsnips and potatoes for Tesco.

How our organic suppliers work with nature

Beetle banks
Farmers establish these ridges to divide larger fields and sow them with plants including cocksfoot, timothy and red fescue, to create a haven for "friendly" insects which prey on insect pests. The banks, which are between two and four metres wide, also provide a nesting habitat for birds, and hibernating and nesting for small mammals, beetles and bumblebees. Shropshire's, one of our main suppliers of fresh salads and vegetables use beetle banks on most of their organic salad fields.

Crop rotation
Changing what is grown in each field and sometimes "resting" it is vital for soil fertility and pest and disease control, making this a key part of successful organic farming. Crop rotations are individually tailored to each field to take account of variations in soil types, and the land is rested for one year out of every five. However salad crops like lettuce, which are more intensively cultivated, are not grown for more than two years out of every five. Cover cropping with plants like mustard and red clover, which helps control weeds by suffocating them and is then ploughed back into the soil to help build soil fertility, is also part of the process.

Grass margins
These are wide strips created on the boundaries of fields and watercourses which act as buffer zones and wildlife habitats, and provide ideal nesting for endangered species like grey partridge. Again, these are mostly used with salad crops by Shropshire's.

Flowering plant mixes
Sown on field margins and field corners, the flowers supply pollen and nectar for bumblebees, as well as attracting hoverflies and other friendly insects that feed on aphids.

Cover crops
These are sown when the fields would otherwise be empty to help prevent wind erosion and improve soil quality by stopping nutrients leaching away. Crops include mustard, sweet clover, vetch, red and white clover.

 

 


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