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"I jumped at the chance to be a full-time grower”

Martin Bradshaw shares the story of how his enthusiasm for growing has taken him from a home gardener to producing organic veg at Moss Valley Market Garden. 

Winter scene 1 moss valley market garden
Moss Valley Market Garden

Moss Valley Market Garden is an organic and biodynamic market garden producing fruit and vegetables on a 1.3 acre site based at the Sheffield Organic Growers site near Norton.

They employ several part-time and full-time growers and serve over 200 customers in Sheffield via their veg bag delivery scheme. All of their produce is certified organic and during the summer months most of the vegetables come from the market garden.

Martin shares his enthusiasm for organic growing at Moss Valley Market Garden and how we can all benefit from connecting to locally-grown food.

I set up the Moss Valley Market Garden in 2012.

Just a few years earlier I began growing vegetables in patio pots and in beds on my (very small) back garden. Initially I did evening classes in organic growing and I came across biodynamic growing. I was hooked from the start. Growing food helped me to connect to nature and gave me a dimension to life that I’d never had before.

I’d been working for 12 years as a qualified nurse, but I was so enthused by growing that I decided to leave my job and do a full-time course in biodynamic horticulture.

This led to me finding the new venture at Sheffield Organic Growers. I jumped at the chance to set up my own market garden and be a full-time grower.

We believe that our health and the health of our ecosystems starts from the soil up.

Organic farming is all about creating healthy soils which feed healthy plants, healthy animals and healthy people. Biodynamic farming takes things one step further and aims to make our gardens or farms into mini ecosystems with abundance and variety.

Having small-scale local market gardens close to urban areas is so important to help people to connect to real food that's grown locally.

In an age of massive farms and supermarkets, it's so easy to be disconnected from food growing. It's also another way to make our customers part of our community. That’s why we prefer to sell our veg bags directly to our customers.

Moss Valley Garden web
Moss Valley Market Garden

Our growers are involved in veg deliveries.

Our veg bag customers get to meet the people who’ve grown their food. We think this creates a special relationship between the customer, the grower and the market garden.

We regularly run volunteer days, and whilst many people come to enjoy nature, getting their hands dirty and meeting like-minded folk, we’ve had some volunteers who go on to become employees or set up their own market gardens.

We are looking forward to starting our new family-friendly monthly volunteer days at the end of February. These are an opportunity for people of all ages to become engaged. There’s a huge lack of young farmers, so it’s great to get children interested in growing food.

Before I started growing I’d not seen many of the veg that we grow now.

We grow at least 30 different types of vegetables and lots more if you consider the different varieties of each veg. The veg we grow have been chosen because they grow well on our site – clay soils on quite a high location.

The leafy greens like kales and chards do especially well and the winter salads that we grow in our polytunnels have done particularly well this winter because it has been relatively mild and sunny.

We grow eight different types of winter salad leaf, something you just won't find in the supermarkets. There is nothing like it for freshness, variety and flavour.

Moss Valley Garden 2 web
Moss Valley Market Garden

Winter squash are a fabulous vegetable – easy to grow, heavily productive and highly nutritious. In the right conditions they can be stored all the way through to March or April. They come in all shapes and sizes. We grow a delicious Hokkaido and a massive Hungarian Blue variety. The names are exciting too!

Our spring harvest comes mainly from our polytunnels – more winter salads that are giving their last burst, rainbow chard and spinach crops, as well as spring onions.

We start our first outdoor crops under polythene cloches in spring – more chard, kales and beetroot. They will be ready around June. Spring and early summer are our busiest times, a mad rush to get all our main crops harvested.

We’ve benefited from having other growers around – sharing ideas, tools and seeds.

One of the keys to our success and longevity is being on the Sheffield Organic Growers site.

Scientists used to think that nature was all about competition and survival of the fittest, but more are realising that it’s actually about immense cooperation between species in ecosystems. Fungal networks in woodlands that share resources between trees is one great example. In a similar way, we believe that businesses do best when they cooperate.

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