From the back garden to a market garden serving a community of 60 families read how Chris Huskins went about setting up Fanfield Farm, a Regenerative Community Farm in Arlington, East Sussex.
Hi Chris! When did you start gardening?
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when my love for growing veg and gardening started, in fact I do actually remember as a ten year old obsessed with becoming a footballer that I “would not have a garden, just all turf and two football goals”. Nowadays this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Around 8 years ago I started to grow veg in back gardens and veg patches, this is where everything changed as I started to taste the difference. After that veg patches took over gardens in our homes for years. Then came allotments, then came the rented gardens of others… before we finally moved to East Sussex to live on and start our market garden; Fanfield Farm.
How much knowledge of gardening did you have when you started?
Back when we started it was only knowledge passed down through generations. My parents had always gardened and always grown veg too. I grew up spending summers on my Great Aunt’s Farm and have always loved the outdoors. I guess it was in my blood, but had no real training and really did just give everything a try.
Was gardening a thing in your household when you were growing up?
Yes most definitely although as I mentioned I was more interested in kicking a football around at the time.
Who else gets involved with your plot? Is it a family affair?
My wife Emily and I run it together, we also have weekly volunteer and open days… plus the family is roped in a lot to keep things tidy and growing.
Where do you get inspiration and gardening advice from?
I have always followed lots of inspirational growers, especially on instagram where there is a fantastic community. I learnt a lot about growing veg from Jean Martin Fortier though, his books and videos are fantastic for the scale of growing I am working towards.
What did you grow this season?
This last growing season we have grown almost every veg on the list:
Tomatoes, Cucumber, Lettuce, Aubergines, Spring Onions, Celery, Rainbow Chard, Carrots, Parsley, Coriander, Beets, Swede, Sprouts, Turnips, Courgettes, Leeks, Kale, Cavolo Nero, Beans, Squash, Broccoli, Soft Fruit, Fruit Trees, Artichoke, Garlic, Onions, Shallots and loads more.
As for flowers it has been:
Dahlias, Cosmos, Borage, Nasturtiums, Sweet Peas.
How does gardening have an affect on your lifestyle?
It has become our complete life now. We live and work on the market garden and wouldn’t have it any other way. The food we grow is changing our diet, we eat seasonally now which has become very important to us. And just being outside all the time has been incredible both for mental health and for physical health. We couldn’t go back now 🙂
What do you find most challenging in your market garden?
Weeds, weeds and more weeds. We inherited a very compacted soil on the site and have employed no-dig where possible, but in some places we simply had to disrupt the soil underneath to give anything a fighting chance. Where the soil has been disrupted weeds have been a constant battle this year. But more and more we employ no-dig and this is a fantastic solution.
What has been your greatest success?
We are on a 3.7 acre plot and just 21 months ago it was a field. An empty field with nothing on it, we have made it our home and a business that supplies veg boxes to 60 local families a week and growing. Simply staying sane (ish) throughout the last 21 months is probably our greatest success!
Any big growing challenges you plan to take on in the future?
Next year we plan to take on farmers markets and therefore growing for those is a big challenge. We are also taking on a lot of soil testing and pledging to fix this field we are on, whilst also growing increasing amounts of veg. This challenge is really exciting.
Three top tips you would give someone starting out?
- Grow what you want to eat, this will give you an addiction to growing
- Study your soil, everyones is different and it will change how you do things
- Grow something quick… Lettuce, Radish… something that is on your plate in 30 days… again you will be come addicted and soon be on to tomatoes, cucumbers and the rest.
Three people you’d recommend following on Instagram?