As part of our Lifting the Veil series, originally shared in summer 2024, we’ve been talking honestly about the realities that we and other similar, small-scale farmers and community organisations are faced with when trying to lead food system change.

We think it’s really important our community knows the challenges we face so they can understand how to best support us make this place thrive, and to make our work advocating for food system change more effective and wide reaching.

Welcome to Part 3: More about Soil Health

In part 1 of this series we explained a bit more about the patience required for producing fertile growing land and the tiny margins common for small scale farmers.

In this post we wanted to share more about our challenges with soil health, being felt in our Original Garden. The OG garden is the area of the site which has been cultivated for the longest, right back to the early days of our 40+ year history.

For the last couple of years we’ve been experiencing lower crop yields and stunted plants in the OG space. This has significantly limited the range and amount of veggies we had available in our Farm Shop, and that of course has negatively impacted the amount of money that flows back into running the organisation from this retail source.

Though we’ve hated to leave loyal customers with a reduced range and supply, it’s not a quick fix kind of problem. Again, the lessons from the land speak for patience, and the need for time to explore solutions and allow trial and error. 

Now, of course we were not sitting idle over this time (farmers never do), we were digging deep into the science of soil trying to understand what was going on.

We had soil tests and received various pieces of advice from specialists in this area. We invested in (organic certification permitted) biological inputs and tried many different remedies. But the problems persisted and proved very complex to remediate. 

It was only after a couple of years of trials that we started to see some positive improvements again. Thank goodness they eventually came, as our patience with this struggle had certainly been tested! 

When you combine all this with weather woes, it often feels like we have our backs against the wall. And as we’ve mentioned in previous emails too, this is not an uncommon situation for small scale farmers, who are working in more ecologically sound ways.

It’s of course, an important reminder that good things take time, natural systems are complex, and we need to be patient in allowing the land to heal and give back to us.

This is another of the reasons we decided to launch our Friends of Kelmarna membership scheme. Making our funding model more diverse and less reliant just on sales of produce is critical to helping us ride out the production up’s and down’s, and reduce our vulnerability to a changing climate and weather fluctuations.

Read on for Part Four, the finale of this series.