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 of buying land 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 how to feed an urban population in the most sustainable way.
For the first year and a half we managed the land ourselves, taking on the challenge (on our days off!) of turning a rough hay meadow (picture below in 2008) into something more productive. In late 2008, we started the process with the Soil Association of converting the land to organic status. We then had to spend a lot of 2009 killing off weeds (by cultivating the soil), but by the end of the year we had planted up most of the land with vetch (a leguminous nitrogen-fixing green manure), whilst keeping generous field margins for wildlife.
In the meantime, we'd been planning a longer-term solution to the management of the land and, in April 2010, a 10 year tenancy was signed with Moss Brook Growers, a new co-operative veg growing business set up by two Unicorners – Stuart & Rob. A bit later, in June 2010, the land finished its conversion period and became fully organic.
Moss Brook Growers have now taken on the challenge of establishing a thriving vegetable farm, and supplying us with lovely vegetables! You can find out more about Moss Brook Growers and what’s happening right now on the land. Throughout the year they will be supplying us with a large range of seasonal crops - look out for the 'Moss Brook Growers' name on leeks, cabbages, fresh garlic, spinach, radishes and kale, amongst other things.
From our perspective at Unicorn, one of the key benefits of owning this land and supporting a new farming business is that we get a regular supply of super-fresh, high quality vegetables, delivered as and when we need it (sometimes at short 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.