Today I visited Hawkwood Plant Nursery, as part of the horticulture course I’m studying. We got to spend a day up at the site in North Chingford mastering seed-sowing techniques, learning about best practice crop rotation, and exploring the wonders of heirloom seed swapping. Hawkwood is home to OrganicLea – a community food project based in the Lea Valley that produces and distributes food and plants locally. A workers’ cooperative at their core, they aim “to bring people together to take action towards a more just and sustainable society”.
The site is nothing short of a slice of heaven. Huge greenhouses are packed with chilli plants, red rubin basils, tomatoes, courgettes – all full of colour, smell, and taste at which the novice grower marvels. Nestled amongst these crops are the all-important pollinators to attract insects, bringing in daydreaming bees and butterflies. Elsewhere, green manures patiently and proudly grow in rotation to help put nitrogen back into the soil for next year’s crops. Bee hives hum alongside a row of peach trees. Lying a few cm deep in the field at the back of the site, thousands of parsnip seeds stir in the heat of the June sunshine. Atop the hill, Epping Forest oaks wave down to you in the breeze.
Feeling tired but inspired from every angle, I left pondering an increasingly-familiar thought: when can I become a full-time food grower?
OrganicLea: veg box, open days, plant sales and courses.
Green manures: cover the soil and when dug in put nitrogen back into the soil.
Red Rubin Basil: smooth dark purple foliage, delicious Basil fragrance and flavour.