MEET THE HEAD GROWER AT FORTY HALL FARM'S MARKET GARDEN
Local food writer, Christine Smallwood’s been talking with some of the great names of the Enfield food scene, who will be at this year’s festival. First off, she meets Matthew Robinson, the head grower at Forty Hall Farm's Market Garden.
Matthew Robinson, Head Grower - Forty Hall Farm
A while ago, by chance, Matthew Robinson came across a seed company website. He remembers, “I read it compulsively. I read every single page about every single crop.” He then bought some seeds to sow in his small garden so that, “we had some nice salad.” One of his housemates knew that he wanted a change from working as an art studio fabricator. So, following his cultivation feat, she suggested that he volunteer with Growing Communities. He did, he loved it, and he applied for a training course. Matthew is now the Head Grower at Forty Hall Farm’s Market Garden.
The 170-acre organic farm, located in Enfield and run by Capel Manor College is an educational centre with a vineyard and orchard, as well as the market garden. The hard-working staff and volunteers endeavour to sustainably produce as much organic food as they can. Working with the community is important, and they have created a local resource, not just somewhere to buy veg and meat but a friendly place to gather and celebrate. Matthew acknowledges,
“volunteers are at the core of what we do. Although it’s a big farm compared to many other small scale growers in London, our challenge is that there aren’t many people to cope with the amount of work there is to do, given the size. We’re always trying to encourage more volunteers.”
It’s all a big change from studying sculpture at Chelsea and the Slade. But he enjoys what he does.
“I no longer do any art, but I feel this is doing what I always wanted art to do: be relevant.”
And the increasing number of subscribers to the veg bag scheme clearly see the relevance too. Matthew would like people to buy the farm’s veg because
“It’s a really good way of supporting a local business and it can make your cooking more interesting because you’ll get different things and recipe ideas.”
In a few months, the veg bags will contain parsnips, and Matthew has to hurry off to plant them using a sowing contraption he’s adapted. It’s heartening to think it all started with a few seeds sown in a home garden, and he is still thrilled
“when you’ve successfully raised a crop. You’ve sown it, you’ve planted it, you’ve weeded it and then you finally get to harvest it and it’s successful. That’s the best.”
Who would have thought you could grow a career change from a seed catalogue?
Discover Matthew’s rather unusual breakfast in Christine's Hothouse Q and A here!
Twitter: @FortyHallFarm Instagram: @fortyhallfarm
Matthew and his team will be giving tours of the Market Garden throughout the Festival and selling their delicious produce, rumour has it they will be showing us a favourite dish or two in a Market Garden cooking demo too! If you’re interested in buying the veg that Matthew and his Market Garden team grow on a regular basis, go along to the farm shop at Forty Hall Farm (see opening hours on the site), subscribe to the weekly veg bag scheme or the monthly Farmers’ Market held on the farm on the second Sunday of each month.
If you’d like to find out more about volunteering at the farm, take a look here