Investing in the ground itself

I’ve spent a number of years working with retailers in town and city centres and so I’m no stranger to the search for a prime location. The joy and heartache of finding something that is visible enough, and yet affordable, is often a harsh reality-check for the aspiring shopkeeper. That’s before those with the ultimate power, the planners, get involved.

For a horticultural business, the stakes are that bit higher. We will, literally, be investing in the ground itself– feeding the soil rather than the plants, as the master of the “no-dig” methodology Charles Dowding espouses. This takes landlord commitment as, over time, we will be adding organic matter to the soil year-upon-year in order to create an ideal growing environment for our veggies. If you move, the one thing that you cannot take with you is the ground beneath your feet.

We found our spot back in October, almost five months ago. Never underestimate the time it takes. We took the decision, after working through a pilot season somewhere else, that we needed somewhere that would support our social enterprise aspirations. Setting up stall on an education farm is ideal, alongside a couple of other innovative tenants. A landlord with a decade of successfully engaging schools is a great context with which to surround ourselves. Access and logistics are also critical. Our first delivery is likely to be over 50 tonnes of compost material. Like we said, we will be literally investing in the ground itself and we don’t want to be pushing that half a mile in a wheelbarrow.

It’s taken a crazy amount of time to sort the lease, but we are about to break-ground this Spring. Any other year, there might have been a rush to get everything in the ground, but 2018 seems reluctant to let go of winter. We’re promised a white Easter to compound the two bouts of snow that we have already endured in the last three months. At least we are not tearing our hair out about missing the Spring sunshine as there is precious little of this around.

We’ve satisfied the planners. We understand which Act our tenancy is subject to and we’ve talked fencing, access, signage and even future expansion. We’ve talked security (against rabbits) and utility connections. We now want to be out-standing in our field, and so do the hundreds of seedlings that are stuck indoors with us.