Founder and owner Alex Horne established The Essex Allotment in 2018. Prior to this Alex spent 14 years at supermarket giant Tesco and a year at Cancer Research UK before making a life changing decision to quit the corporate, commercial world and pursue a vision of creating a market garden business based on the principles of regenerative agriculture.
Alex spent the last three years at the Allotment to nurture his skills, experiment with growing techniques and heavily research into best regenerative agriculture practices around the world. This led in the late summer of 2020 to the leasing of several acres of farmland to establish the Essex Allotment Farm which has been developed to provide the local population with acres of fully organic vegetables.
We caught up with Alex to find out more about his gardening journey.
When did you start gardening?
Some of my earliest memories were growing tomatoes and cucumbers with my grandad in his greenhouse, I have been growing for my family on the allotment for 5 years.
How much knowledge of gardening did you have when you started?
Very little – but I’m a hands-on learner! And love to problem solve and research.
Was gardening a thing in your household when you were growing up?
Yes – my mum is a floral artist and has always taken pride in her gardens.
Who else gets involved with your plot? Is it a family affair?
Just my son and me on the allotment, quite often I have friends volunteer at the farm in exchange for a few veggies.
Where do you get inspiration and gardening advice from?
I’m a huge fan of social media – I have made a few trusted friends online I can go to for advice. The first book I read was ‘allotment for dummies’ I still refer back to it now.
What are you planning to grow this season?
Everything – with the addition of an acre of farmland for a market garden, I am growing commercially. I like to give my customers lots of variety and try veg you don’t see in the supermarkets.
How does gardening have an affect on your lifestyle?
It is my lifestyle now – I’m incredibly lucky, I get to work outside and grow for others as well as myself. It can be tiring but I would not want to go back to the corporate life.
What do you find most challenging in your garden?
The weather, I don’t find it hard necessarily but extremely frustrating!
What has been your greatest success?
I think this is still to come, I have started this venture into commercial growing and I can’t wait to see the results and get feedback from my customers, I’m sure the new market garden will be my greatest success in a few years’ time.
Any big growing challenges you plan to take on in the future?
I have started with the farm, expanding the growing space with be a huge challenge!
Three top tips you would give someone starting out?
Take your time, don’t try and do too much too soon.
Do not believe the seed packets!
Grow things you enjoy eating, in year 1 I grew hundreds of courgettes and I don’t really like them!
Three people you’d recommend following on Instagram?
Jessie – Plot_37
Gem — @mothercookergarden
Danni – Plot.81