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A day in the life of a market gardener at the Kitchen Garden Enterprise

Posted on 6th October 2021

6.30am: Rise and shine! The day starts with a brisk morning walk with Charlie the dog, a cup of tea and hearty breakfast to sustain us for the day, before we set off to the garden.

8am: Arrive at the Kitchen Garden Enterprise. Alex and Sol and puppy Jaz are already on-site, opening up the Gardeners cottage and the flower shop, assessing the beds, do we need to water? How bad is the slug damage? What new seedlings have germinated?

We check in with each other and look at the orders for the day. 25 veg boxes plus orders from restaurants, delis, and the Real Meal Store. We grab a box and start to harvest rainbow chard, kale, spicy salads, beetroots, tomatoes, apples, herbs and lettuce.

9am: Help is at hand. The brilliant Real Meal Store Retail Manager Zoe arrives to help with packing the boxes. Zoe makes sure every box is carefully packed with a good balance of seasonal produce, sorting through to make sure the quality and quantity of what we are sending out is as good as it can be, and letting us know if we need to get back out there and pick more!

11am: Tea break. This harvesting business is thirsty work and we stop our work and congregate to slurp down some hot drinks and discuss the needs of the rest of the day. How is the harvest looking? How are the plants? What needs to come out and what will be going in in its place? This year we’re really focussing on making sure every bed is either in use with some frost tolerant crops, or sown with green manure for the winter. Sometimes we can fool ourselves into thinking that the summer is over and things are slowing down, but as any market gardener will tell you, there is still plenty to do at this time of year and the Kitchen Garden Enterprise is no exception. We make lists of the jobs to do, ensuring there is a good variety of tasks so that we can divide them between the volunteers and participants who will be helping at the garden the following day.

12am: Collection time. We know it’s midday by the fact that Mark, our electric cargo bike delivery man comes cruising down the path. Jazzy and Charlie welcome him with a few excited barks followed by a lot of tail wagging and jumping around. I head to the packing shed where Zoe has finished and left all the boxes neatly lined up, ready for collection. Mark and I go through his deliveries for the day, checking who the new customers are, who is on holiday, and any other special requests for the week. It is without doubt one of my favourite moments, loading up the cargo bike and seeing Mark whizz off around South Bristol to deliver our freshly picked produce to our loyal customers. Locally grown, seasonal and chemical-free food delivered by electric bike.

12.30: Lunch time. We make the most of the sunny days and sit in the orchard to enjoy our lunch. Discussing things like what do we have in abundance? What do we need to send to the Real Meal Store for processing? What do we still need to do to complete our harvesting and orders for the day? This week there is the added excitement of transforming the packing shed into a restaurant for our Crowdfunder Supper Club which takes place on the following evening. Jodie, the Food Security Programme lead has arrived to decorate the space so as the veg boxes go out, the candles, cutlery, crockery and table decorations move in.

1pm: Completing the rest of the orders. Since lock-down has lifted we have finally been able to create relationships with some Bristol restaurants who buy our herbs, salads and vegetables. We invite the chefs to visit the garden and see what we do, what we grow and meet the community we work with so that they can proudly state where their produce comes from on their menus. Today we have orders from Root, The Pony North St, Sandy Park Green Grocers, Poco Deli and of course, our own Real Meal Store kitchen who use our produce in their healthy frozen meals range.

2pm: Time to pack up and get delivering! I load up the car with veg boxes for north and east Bristol customers as well as orders for the restaurants and deli’s, I find Charlie the dog who is nearly always entangled adorably with Jazzy in the orchard and set off on my rounds. First stop, the Pony North St. There is something thoroughly enjoyable about delivering to a restaurant in-between service. The chefs are all busy prepping for evening service, there are people dotted about polishing cutlery and laying tables, someone is doing a wine tasting in the corner and there is a productive buzz. I’m always greeted by the whole team with big smiles as I walk through the door with my arms full of edible flowers, herbs and vegetables.

4pm: Home time. I deliver the final veg box to my own door and Charlie is looking at me longingly, desperate as ever for a walk, and so, my day ends as it began, with a walk to unwind, contemplate the day and consider what delicious concoction of vegetables to cook from today’s veg box.