Coordinators visit Blaenffos Permaculture Market Garden
As part of our quarterly Paramaethu Cymru coordinators’ meeting we include a site visit treat! -
This time we visited Blaenffos Permaculture Market Garden where Debbie and Julian grow a range of salad, vegetables and soft and top fruit. They've been growing on the six-and-a-half acre site for eight years, selling the bulk of their produce from a farm gate stall and through the year to local health food outlets.
They practice a no-dig system, choosing to build soil fertility using raised beds. I was particularly interested in their compost system. They build the compost windrows where they plan to eventually have their permanent raised beds. After building the heap it's covered and left to mature for at least a year, then separated out. The top third goes one side, the middle third the other side and the remaining third is left in place providing three beds. They add a layer of well overlapped cardboard and weed seed free compost to hold down the cardboard and exclude light, providing the perfect growing environment for healthy plants.
Over the years, Debbie and Julian have developed a number of designs on their site which help the whole operation to run that bit more smoothly. It's carefully designed and you can really see that on a walk-around. It's neat and efficient, there are lots of recycled materials given new life, and many careful little touches that have come from years of trial and error. It's all done on a human scale, using minimal inputs, simple tools and lots of hard work.
But it's not just about the veg. Julian and Debbie are both artists and Vegetable Agenda www.vegetableagenda.co.uk is their expression of the interface between vegetable growing and art. It's as integral to their system as the compost windrows. As well as their own art projects, which can be seen on, around and as part of the site, they offer residencies for artists and encourage any volunteers they have to engage with the land creatively. They have used their straw bale house build as a temporary art gallery showcasing contemporary art and in the process opening up their site to a broader audience.
Debbie and Julian practice permaculture with a strong emphasis on culture and creativity. Cultivating time and space to play, create and build community is just as important to them as building soil fertility, and you'll really notice this on a visit to the site.