July 12 2015

Phew! What a busy few weeks, but where to start? 

Last week I spent a couple of days at the The Organic Research Centre, based at Wakelyns Farm in Suffolk, where I gave a talk to a number of farmers about organic quinoa production in Britain. The event went really well and there was plenty of interest in this new British crop.  Myself and Wakelyns Farm have both planted a quinoa variety trial to test out which varieties perform best under a British organic production system, hoping that one will stand out from the crowd. It's too soon to say if one variety is any better than another, but we're hopeful the trial will yield useful results. During the event at Wakelyns we were visited by Anna Hill from BBC Radio 4 to record a short piece for Farming Today, in which we discussed the work we were doing to push forward organic quinoa production in the UK. It's always interesting to see how such programs are recorded, and Anna did a great job to fit in all of the pieces of information that were important to our story.

Later on in the week I dropped in to see organic farmers Sam Barker and Mark Lea who are both growing quinoa crops on their farms this year. I made a short video to show how their crops are coming along this year, which can be seen below:

Back on my families farm, our own quinoa crops are coming on well with the summer heat, and although the majority of crops look great, one of the fields is looking quite weedy. While this certainly isn't desirable as it reduces the yield of our crop, it can also have significant environmental benefits by providing food for foraging bees, and this particular field has been teeming with them! The plight of the bee has certainly been in the news recently due to their rapidly declining numbers, so it feels great to be helping them out. You can read more about protecting British bees via the Bumblebee Conservation Trust website by clicking here.

Most of our crops are in the flowering phase at present, which is the stage in which the quinoa plants are producing pollen on their male parts called the stamen, which go on to fertilise the female 'stigma'. It is behind this stigma that the small quinoa seeds start to develop. Hopefully in a few weeks we'll start to find these small seeds being formed on the quinoa plant, and it's these seeds that will finally make their way onto your plate! For now however, below is a close up of a flowering quinoa plant.... it doesn't look much like what you would traditionally know as a flower does it!?

Toward the end of the week, I was joined for a few days by a very enthusiastic visitor all the way from New Zealand. Dan arrived on the Thursday and I had just over 24 hours to show him around all of my quinoa crops before he had to leave, which was no easy task. We manged to see both the best and the worst of the crops, and hopefully it will be food for thought for Dan's own plans to start growing quinoa back home. The best of luck to him! To top off this blog post, here's a picture of Dan (right) with our quinoa grower Sam (left) inspecting one of Sam's organic quinoa crops.

I'm already looking forward to updating you all in a few weeks time, as our crops develop rapidly over the summer....

         Stephen.



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