Caroline Barugh owns and runs Goodness Veg just a couple of miles north of York, I caught up with Caroline tending her seven acres of plants.
You’re wholly organic, do you ever think that maintaining the status is too much of a struggle?
No I’ve never even thought of farming that way, all you have to do is do other things, it’s not as easy but the whole point of growing is to make it interesting. To me that’s part of the fun, learning how to deal with different situations. It’s looking outside the box and people appreciate the hard work that goes in, not to mention the natural produce.
When you started was there any particular reason for deciding to be organic?
It’s the natural concept as well as being organic. Natural doesn’t need too much playing around with if you do things in the right way. Chemicals can be a lazy way of growing, big farms couldn’t manage to do this on a large scale but it depends on the business. To me it’s important to know what I’m growing and know what my customers like to eat. It’s about focusing on growing the best produce you can.
So quality over quantity?
Oh definitely. Definitely!
How many customers are you supplying each week?
Around ninety to a hundred-and-twenty vegetable boxes a week depending on the year and forty to fifty fruit bags. We don’t grow all the fruit like bananas here in Yorkshire but we do have our own apples, pears and plums.
Your background is a primary school teacher rather than a farmer, where do you source your help and ideas from?
To be honest the best help I’ve had is from the local farmers. I’ve got a fantastic little old man (I shouldn’t really say little old man!) laughs, who loves to come and plough and tells me how to do things. The old farmers know how it should be done, I’m happy to listen to what they have to say.
Some people who move into rural communities don’t find them entirely supportive at the outset but you’ve not had that problem?
The organic way of growing produce is always going to be contested, people laugh when they see you on your hands and knees weeding. But when they see you’re willing to work hard to achieve, even if it’s a different style of farming, they’re happy to support you. So no, they’ve been really good to me.
Do you get the same support from your customers? Food is getting expensive for some people, are you suffering at the hands of people’s reluctance to spend more on food?
We haven’t found so. When people get a bag for £10 or £12 we find that people are saving money as they’re actually using the veg. It makes them think of interesting ways to cook and they’re not over buying food ‘in case it comes in handy’. The bags vary every week so people can change how they cook things, it’s cost effective and people don’t want to waste fresh food.
So what can people expect to find in a £10 or £12 bag?
At this time of year we’ve got: fresh broccoli, kohlrabi, fennel, kale, spinach, beans, we’re about to start coming into the beetroot, parsnips and other root veg. We grow around ninety vegetables through the year. It’s endless to be honest!
You just have to work with the seasons, plant at the right time, protect your crops and it’s amazing what you can get all year round.