Meet the organic vegetable growers

Martin and Sarah Mackay

Martin and Sarah Mackay - Credit: Archant

Sarah and Martin Mackey on life at Ripple Farm in Crundale and their passion for sustainable agriculture - and never stopping learning

Names: Sarah and Martin Mackey

Job titles: Organic growers

Where? Crundale, near Canterbury

What sort of farm is it?

We specilaise in organic vegetable production.

Tell us about the farm

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We rent a total of 120 acres. Our home farm, located at Ripple Farm, slopes up to the bottom inclines of the North Downs, thus our light chalky soil is well drained. We also have land at Wye, formerly part of the Wye Agricultural College Farm (see also page 54). Ripple Farm has

been certified organic since 1989.

We rotate our production and one third is devoted to vegetable production while on the other two thirds we grow green manure crops such as clover.

For part of the year a neighbouring farm grazes sheep on the land and we also mow it when necessary.

Green manures and composted farmyard manures provide our fertility as we don’t use chemical fertilisers.

Who or what inspires you?

Both Martin and I are passionately interested in organic production and believe that it is a key part of sustainable agriculture.

How long have you both been in the farming industry?

Martin’s father worked in farming and Martin first started helping when he was about 14. I worked for the Environment Agency in an office situation before travelling to Spain, France and Portugal with WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). Martin first started working at Ripple Farm in 1995 while studying at Imperial College, Wye. I became involved in 2000 and we jointly took over the running of the farm in 2008.

What has your training been?

Martin has a degree in Agriculture from University College, Dublin and an MSc in Sustainable Agriculture from Imperial College, Wye. I don’t have any formal qualifications but I have learnt – and am continuing to learn – every day.

What vegetables do you grow?

We grow a very wide range including kale, potatoes, carrots, onions, leeks, cabbage, cauliflower, parsnips, swede, beetroot, spinach and a variety of salad leaves – plus quite a lot more.

How do you market?

We do not have a farm shop. We operate an organic box scheme that provides our customers with a range – usually consisting of seven or more fresh organic vegetables and salads – on a weekly basis.

We attend Wye and Whitstable Farmers’ Markets and also sell into the London market including health food and other independent shops as well as through Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market.

Describe a typical working day

My working day is very different from Martin’s. I enjoy being out in the fields but fit in most of the farm administration and the school too. A typical day for Martin starts in the fields harvesting the day’s orders then collating all the orders in the packing shed with a little bit of time left for growing at the end of the day.

We employ 15 people, some of whom have undertaken work-based training and apprenticeships through Hadlow College.

Do you think your children will follow in your footsteps?

We have three children.The oldest, Roxanne, is travelling, the two younger ones – Ciara, 12 and Theresa, 10 – are at school. Our younger daughter is very interested in wildlife and gardening, so this might be the start of a career in organic farming for her.

Marks out of 10?

10! Definitely a 10 for job satisfaction! n

Get in touch

Ripple Farm Organics, Crundale, nr Canterbury CT14 7EB

01227 730898 or info@ripplefarmorganics.co.uk

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