Irrigation Lake at Brow Farm

Why We Installed an Irrigation Lake

Many of the crops grown on our land, such as salad crops, have a short duration. Having water available at the right time during their growth stages is crucial. This could be for establishing young transplants, maintaining crops through prolonged dry periods, or enabling them to mature to a size suitable for harvest.

Towards the end of the last century and into the beginning of this one, most of the salad crops grown on the farm were destined for wholesale markets. These markets spanned locally and across the country, including cities like Edinburgh, Southampton, London, Birmingham, and Bristol, among others.

However, with the rise of supermarkets and changes in consumer buying habits, our customer base shifted. Instead of supplying wholesale markets, we began dealing directly with supermarkets. This shift necessitated changes in how we operated. Supermarkets required growers to sign supply contracts, committing to deliver a set amount of produce consistently. While contracts guaranteed a pre-agreed price for the produce, they also imposed penalties if volume commitments were not met. However, there were no provisions if volumes were not taken, leading to potential losses for unharvested or spoiled crops.

To adapt to these market shifts and uncertainties, we invested in improving our farming infrastructure. Better land drainage was crucial, allowing us to plant and harvest crops as needed, even with increasingly larger machines. Additionally, irrigation became essential to ensure a consistent supply of crops throughout the season. This was especially critical during the hottest summer months when the demand for salads, a staple in many households when summer was at its peak.

By investing in an irrigation lake and enhancing our land management practices, we’ve minimized uncertainties in crop production. This ensures that we can meet our supply commitments to supermarkets while also maintaining the quality and freshness that our customers expect.

Because of our location in the UK we are blessed with around 100cm of rain fall a year. This does give us the opportunity to replenish during winter any water used on crops over the summer months. Also we have a number of different types of soils on the farm. Ranging from heavy clays, sandy on clay bed, black sand to peat moss. So we were able to use this when locating the lake. So we could use clay to line the lake to make it water proof.

Author: Martin Caunce