Grown in Wales

Grown in WalesGrown in WalesGrown in Wales

31

August

Nourishment

Charles Warner

Everyone thinks that they have the toughest job. We all have different challenges in our work even if it's just boredom. In my industry the challenge is it's seasonal nature. People love to visit the garden centre but they tend to visit once or twice each year or if they are very keen three or four times but it's not like the supermarket where most people will visit at least once a week and sometimes more. Those visits to the garden centre tend to be in a period from the beginning of March to the beginning of July. After that people just pop in for a browse or a cup of tea. This is what defines how a plant producer must operate to make a living. The nursery must be full to brimming by mid febuary and the plants must look superb and noone can expect more than a day off here and there.

I just heard on the radio that this year that this period was the wettest since 1800 and something. No surprise there then. Just when we needed to be at our peak selling period and the time when our plants looked their best, the heavens opened, the rain fell and noone felt much like gardening. To kep our plants as fresh as we can we top up the garden centre displays weekly but during April it was quite disheartening to see the empty centres lashed by rain and battered by the wind. It was a tough time for them. Our strategy is to just keep going and that is what we did. Slowly sales began to pick up. I think that people just got fed up with waiting for the sun and went to the garden centre regardless. It was a tough year for everyone in the trade and as one of my customers pointed out, many of the garden centres will now have unsold stock and if they are able they will be holding onto it until next spring so it could still be tough for the likes of shrub producers.

We did ok. We just carried on. In the end we sold more plants in that spring period than we ever have but exhaustion was the price. We were all exhausted by July but with next years production to schedule there was not much time for a break. That was when I discovered the value of my new local market. A group of traders got together and bought a run down sitebehind Cardigan high street. It's mostly a large tin shack and when I first saw it i wished them well but couldn't really see how they were going to turn this rusty old place into somewhere people would visit. I love being wrong. Sometimes I'm put off by these "farmers market" type developments. You can see them as a  playground for the middle classes to spend twice as much on their food as they need to in a bid to follow a fashion and the produce is not always quite as good or as local as you would hope. However I decided that on market day each week I would take a break and head down to do my shopping. That first day I chatted with the lady that grew salads. They were lovely bags of mixed leaves. Each had an edible flower in the bag and looked very pretty. I looked at the guitars on the music stand, bought a most delicious samosa and then sat at a table with a little lemon tart and a coffee and felt the exhaustion drain away. There was a buzz in there. I watched the people choosing scallops and chatting with the lady at the plant stall. The sun poured through the open doors and the gaps in the tin and there was an almost mediaeval feel about it . It was more than just shopping for your food. It was more than just following a fashion. By spending time chatting to the people that had actually made or grown or reared the things that you were buying you felt a much greater sense of connection. I felt nourished and restored in a way that you would never feel from visiting a supermarket .

So now I go down every Thursday. I try to use  different stalls each week but I can never resist a samosa and those bags of salad

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