In autumn 2008 we became the proud owners of 21 acres of prime growing land at Glazebury, near Leigh, just under 14 miles by road from the shop. The main aims were to increase the supply of really local organic veg, increase the security of supply amidst future uncertainties (like rising fuel prices) and to expand our model of feeding an urban population in the most sustainable way.
For the first year and a half we managed the land ourselves, turning a rough hay meadow into something more productive. In late 2008, we started the process with the Soil Association of converting the land to organic status, and started planting up with green manures to improve soil fertility. It became fully organic in 2010.
The same year, a 10 year tenancy was signed with Moss Brook Growers,a new co-operative set up by two Unicorners – Stuart & Rob, who took on the challenge of establishing a brand new thriving vegetable farm.
It has certainly been a challenge. In 2012 they were hit with one of the worst growing seasons in living memory, with the relentless rain causing devastation for even the most established farmers. They’ve also suffered disruption and long-term damage to the soil structure on part of the land by the laying of a huge water main by United Utilities. And they’ve produced 4 children between them in 3 years, not a bad yield!
But despite all this, they have supplied us with a consistently stunning range of fresh veg, including leeks, cabbages, fresh garlic, spinach, radishes and kale. Often with just a few hours notice. As an independent shop supplying food to an urban population, we really think this is the way forward – a direct, organic, co-operative, local supply, minimising energy use and getting veg from the land to your table in the shortest time possible.
But even under ideal conditions, starting a new small-scale veg growing business is incredibly hard graft, very precarious and certainly not for the faint hearted. We take our hats off to Rob, Stuart and recent addition Carl for what they’ve achieved.
Since we bought our land, two bare hay meadows have been transformed into a proper, almost self-contained farm (it's just missing a farmhouse now!). Years of incredibly hard work from co-op members here at Unicorn and especially at Moss Brook have resulted in
- A 200 sq metre timber barn to store machinery, pack produce and have a cup of tea
- A borehole and irrigation system
- A connection to the national grid and 60 solar panels generating power for the irrigation system and to sell back to the grid
- Hundreds of metres of native hedging planted to provide a rich habitat for birds and small mammals
- A compost toilet for staff, volunteers and visitors
- A rough track to move tractors and machinery around the farm
Look out for the Moss Brook name on our veg cards and find out more about Moss Brook Growers, what's happening on the land right now and even how to visit or help out here.