John Darwin, Yorkshire Vegetable Grower

We like to source our products as locally as possible, so we love working with John Darwin, who grows a variety of vegetables for us just 10 miles down the road. John is passionate about his trade and has harnessed many farming traditions to provide fresh, quality, Yorkshire vegetables all year round. His favourite vegetable is purple sprouting broccoli, gently blanched.

“I love growing vegetables. It’s a highly satisfying job when it goes well. Walking up and down the fields harvesting the crops by hand keeps me fit and the sight of the sun rising over the glossy growing vegetables early on a morning is one of my favourite sights”.

Full interview:

How long have you been growing vegetables?

In 1976 when I was 11 years old, I planted half an acre of vegetables to sell from our newly opened farm shop. They included peas, beans, cabbages, cauliflowers, beetroot, sprouts and carrots. With the help of my parents, this was a great success and I continued for the next 7 years growing half an acre, until I left school at the age of 18 when I planted 9 acres. I still grow the same acreage of vegetables now but I don’t grow carrots, peas or beans.

I live on the farm at Hoylandswaine but I grow the brassicas on land at Thurlstone, just at the top side of Penistone. The land there is ideal because it’s light, well-draining soil.

What is your favourite vegetable?

Purple sprouting broccoli. I eat it most days throughout the winter months, just blanched gently.

Why do your vegetables taste so good?

Firstly, the soil is full of micronutrients (from
manure) which are essential for flavour in brassicas. Secondly, I harvest daily so everything you get is cut fresh that morning and goes straight on to the shelves. It doesn’t get much fresher! I hand weed and hoe as much as possible to keep weeds at bay.

What is the growing cycle?

I plant the crops in May and start to harvest
from mid-July. The season usually lasts until late February, sometimes into March depending on the weather.

What are the challenges of growing vegetables?

Weather conditions can drastically affect the crops. For example cauliflowers can flower rapidly in certain conditions, but be delayed or even stunted in others. Continuity of supply is very difficult. Pests and diseases are also quite a challenge for example, mild wet winters promote the growth of moulds, particularly on sprouts.

What else do you grow?

Potatoes, barley, grass. I also have a flock of sheep which lamb in late winter/early spring. I joke that they keep me sane, but actually I love growing vegetables. It’s a highly satisfying job when it goes well. Walking up and down the fields harvesting the crops by hand keeps me fit and the sight of the summer sun rising over the glossy growing vegetables early on a morning is one of my favourite sights!