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A Magazine for Sheffield

Life on the Regather Farm

With the roaring success of its veg box, in particular since the pandemic began, we spoke to Doug Kemp from Regather to learn more about how they approach growing and why buying local produce is so important.

Regather farm 5

Regather is a cooperative working to create sustainable and fairer food systems which help protect the environment, support the local economy and bring communities together to build a better food future for us all.

The Regather veg box scheme delivers the best local and seasonal produce to households across Sheffield by supporting local food producers and farmers. Since 2018, the Regather team have been busy developing their own 15-acre field in Moss Valley to create a sustainable growing space.

There are ambitious plans for the farm, including growing veg in a market garden, keeping bees, creating a fruit orchard and setting up an agroforestry project.

We spoke to Doug Kemp from Regather to find out more about life on the farm and why growing local is important, for our economy and our environment.

Describe life on the Regather farm.

We are busy turning our 15-acre field into a small productive, organic-certified farm with plenty of space for wildlife in mixed habitats. The farm is located in the Moss Valley about 15 minutes drive south from the centre of Sheffield.

So far we've planted hedgerows, installed a basic infrastructure, put up polytunnels, dug ponds and established a market garden. We have wild areas and a meadow and we should be expanding veg and fruit production via an agroforestry system in the next year or so. We've talked about livestock in some form, probably a flock of laying hens, but we haven't got any concrete plan for that just yet.

Springtime is really busy for us and there’s lots to do - from sowing seeds, looking after seedlings, prepping beds and planting out! Plus trying to finish the polytunnels...

For those who don’t know, what is agroforesty and what does it mean for Regather?

Agroforestry means growing crops between lines of trees. These trees are productive, i.e. apple trees. [There are] many benefits for soil, wildlife shelter and increased diversity of crops from one area.

For Regather it means a site more resilient to increasingly unstable weather as a result of a changing climate.

Regather farm 3

Gareth Roberts (R) on the Regather Farm, Moss Valley.


Why is growing local important?

A short supply chain tends to have less carbon emissions associated with it. We just pick the veg, store it appropriately and it makes its way to Regather on the same day to be packed in a veg box and delivered the day after.

We do minimal processing – i.e. not washing the veg – we pick it as clean as we can and use minimal packaging. Plastic bags to keep salad leaves fresh are a piece of packaging I've not found a solution for just yet. All the big harvesting crates we use have been re-used hundreds of times and the journey from field to Regather is about 15 minutes by road.

Freshly-picked vegetables have better flavour and more nutrients, as in theory the food reaches the customer soon after harvest.

How are your farming techniques encouraging wildlife?

Wildlife seems to be happy on the farm. Many songbirds come and go with the seasons. There are often toads, voles and shrews hiding under things like tarps and logs.

Tawny owls, barn owls and kestrels predate on these. The kestrels are my favourite as they follow me round looking for mammals when I mow the grass.

Wild, uncut edges of the field turn to meadow and are great for insects, in particular ground beetles, butterflies and moths. We've planted almost 1km of hedging and left many areas wild with unmown grass, which is great for insects and food for many other animals.

We have two ponds which do get a bit dry in the summer, but we hope they will start to hold water better to bring some great wetland species to the farm.

Badgers, hares and deer all live nearby, but you'll only see them on a wildlife camera or very early in the morning. They do cause some damage to plants but it's their field really, so apart from trying to minimise what they can get to eat, I leave them be.

What are you growing now and what can we look forward to?

This year we’re continuing with our staples: kale, purple sprouting broccoli, spring onions, leeks, salad, beetroot, chard, runner beans, courgette and squash.

We are trying some new crops as well, including fennel and celeriac. As we have new polytunnels you can expect to see tomatoes, French beans and chillies. Also, we’ve started some perennial crops – Jerusalem artichokes, rhubarb and globe artichokes – although they won't be ready until the following year.

Regather farm

How has the pandemic changed people's perspective on food and the value of buying local?

For some people buying from a local business will have become more of concern to them as questions about the fragility of the food system were discussed more widely. For others the delivery aspect during the first lockdown would have been a key reason to buy from an organisation like Regather.

Any tips for what's in season?

May and June are tricky times of year for UK growers. Winter veg has run out and spring-sown crops are not always ready yet.

If you are lucky asparagus should be available but it's a limited season. Early peas might be cropping, and so could early salad leaves. Some crops can be started in a polytunnel and ready in June as well, maybe early beetroot or even courgettes in June, if they were sown into a polytunnel.

For cooking and recipe inspiration, take a look at our Regather recipes.

Where can we enjoy the farm's produce?

You can try our produce by ordering a Regather veg box. Visit our website to find out more and make your order.

Learn more

Doug Kemp and Gareth Roberts of Regather will speak as part of the Feeding Sheffield Sustainably event on Saturday 15 May as part of Festival of Debate 2021.

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