Ever wondered what is behind the magic of Craigies Farm Pick Your Own experiences? We can confidently say that the secret is having incredible, skilled farm managers!
In this blog, we asked our farm manager Tom about his experience of working on the farm and all the effort and planning that goes into growing all of our wonderful fruit and veg. Read on to get a peek into the inner workings of our farm!
What does a typical day at Craigies look like for you?
“There isn’t really a typical day for me as farming is a really seasonal job, but at the moment we are preparing last year’s crops for a new year. For example, each and every strawberry plant has to have the old leaves removed to reduce the chances of mould and bacteria building up and allow the new season’s leaves to grow.
“We have also been planting raspberries, which have been grown up at a farm near Reading, so they will be ready for you to pick in the summer. We will also be updating you as to what we are doing on-farm over the next few weeks so keep an eye out on our social media.”
What is your favourite part of your job?
“One of the main aspects I enjoy has to be the people. Working in fruit and vegetable production means you are always interacting with a large number of people from many different backgrounds and countries.
“We are very lucky to have a good farm team and I have learnt a huge amount from people I wouldn’t otherwise have met from across the UK, Eastern Europe and Asia. There is something very satisfying about working as a team and looking back and seeing all that you have done together at the end of each day.
“The second is the end of a day in the summer. Although busy it is very satisfying to see the fruits of our labour being picked (pun intended)!”
And what’s the most challenging part?
“The irrigation, or, as I like to call it, the ‘irritation’. Across the farm and most of the soft fruit sector, both fertiliser and water are delivered to the crops via a series of pipes across the farm. Throughout the season I am carefully monitoring how much water, fertiliser and acid each crop is getting.
“Wherever you work, there always seems to be something not quite working with the irrigation and this generally involves you getting soaked in the process of fixing it. That being said, there are opportunities to play about with the fertiliser and water levels and I really enjoy trying to get it just right.”
How do you prepare for the pick your own seasons at Craigies?
“Getting crops to harvest requires a lot of work, from planning how you are going to improve from last year to actually carrying it out. On the farm, we have 4-7 employees at any one time and they will be planting, weeding or checking crops.
“We are lucky to have a very good team of farm advisers (agronomists) who help us plan and carry out the work in the most time and cost-effective methods. Equally when some of our crops don’t look right, they are always on hand to help get the crop back on track.”
What led you to become a farm manager? Did you always know that this is what you wanted to do?
“I got into it by accident and definitely wasn’t dreaming of it since I was a little kid. I studied Geology at university and after a couple of years of working in another area I started to work in agriculture and have been working in this sector ever since.
“After a couple of years of working on the tractors and out in the field, I fancied a bit more involvement in the planning and managing of the farm. Where I am just now offers a good blend of managing the day-to-day workings of the farm with also being out in the fields.
“It is a sector that is not promoted enough and it offers many opportunities for anyone who is prepared to roll their sleeves up and give it a go. I would recommend working in agriculture to anyone who might be interested in trying it.”
How does Scottish weather factor into planning for the growth of many different types of fruit and veg?
“Like the whole of the UK, it is normally never what we want!
“The Scottish climate does help us grow the best soft fruit around. With the lower maximum temperatures and longer daylight hours that we get in the summer the fruit takes that much longer to ripen than it would down in England or Spain. This means the plant has that much longer to build up the sugars in the fruit, resulting in a sweeter, tastier berry.
“Although the weather is never quite what we want in the UK, we are very lucky to be able to grow a variety of healthy crops and livestock. Many parts of the world are not so lucky.”
What advice would you give for people looking to start their own veg gardens at home?
“Give it a go, what have you got to lose? Start small and with some easier crops like runner beans. Grow salads; quick to grow and super tasty. Then just try, try again. You might fail but you’ll learn a lot and eventually get the hang of it.”
Finally, what’s the favourite thing you grow at Craigies and why?!
“The strawberries. The smell that comes out of the tunnels when the crop is ripe is 10/10!”
A huge thank you to Tom for telling us all about what it’s like to be a farm manager here at Craigies Farm! We hope you’ve learned a bit more about all the effort that goes into growing all of our delicious fruit and veg.
Craigies Farm is open 7 days a week, so come along to pick up some of our amazing produce. And you can make the most of your visit by dropping into Craigies Café, bring the little ones along to Little Farmers, or click & collect your online shop order.