The 155 acres of Garson Farm’s sandy soils lie in the floodplain of the River Mole, 15 miles from the centre of London. Now growing crops for Pick Your Own, this is one of the very few businesses actively farming so close to the city.
The Thompson family have farmed at Garsons for five generations spanning 145 years. This has been achieved by caring for the local environment and understanding how to look after their farmland in the most sustainable way.
Their mission is to produce the highest quality fruits and vegetables, with good flavour, texture and appearance. Whilst still using organic manures, modern integrated farming techniques are used hand in hand with nature. Strenuous efforts are made to minimize pesticide application by using expert agronomist advice. Spray operators are trained and regularly updated. Every year fruit and vegetables are sampled and tested for safety by the Trading Standards Office and have always been passed as entirely safe.
Biological methods are used for pest control as a preferred choice. Phacelia flowers are grown adjacent to sweetcorn because it is a favoured host for lacewings, which feed on the sweetcorn aphids. For strawberries, raspberries and runner beans natural predators control several important pests. In orchards pheromone traps are used to attract and monitor moth populations, reducing the need to apply controls.
Fruit crops and orchards have grass alleyways and there are grass car parks and a grass picnic area by the riverbank. These act as beetle banks and insect corridors so that insects can pass between crops. Five kilometres of new hedges, windbreaks (of indigenous tree species) and two copse areas have been created in recent years. The wide range of fruit, vegetables and flowers grown help prevent major build-ups of any one pest or disease.
Garsons bird population has increased in recent years, particularly of pheasant, lapwing and green woodpeckers. A significant number of Parakeets have become native on the farm as elsewhere in the locality.
Regular soil analysis allows the correction of soil deficiencies accurately and without waste. All fruit crops are trickle irrigated – a system of underground pipes places the water directly amongst the plant roots. Water usage has halved in the last 15 years and the leaching of fertilisers back into the river effectively eliminated.
Garson Farm includes 50 acres of traditional river flood meadows. These are not fertilised and are rich in native flora. They are used for grazing and cut in late summer for hay. These types of meadows are now increasingly rare.
Over 75,000 local customers enjoy picking in Garson Farm fields every year. They achieve a reduction in food miles and benefit from the exercise, education and fresh air, as well as the health giving properties of fresh fruit and vegetables.