I was exposed to asparagus at an early age and growing up next door to one of the first asparagus farms in Kent, I watched as the queues grew and many years later when the right opportunity arrived on the right soil, I decided the time was right. On a free draining sandy loam, with a southern aspect we planted our first beds in 1991. We were soon supplying an appreciative local trade and from then delivering into London and to local hotels and restaurants. Asparagus, the start of the English vegetable season; and what a delicious and delicate start, with the promise of an English summer of fresh soft fruits to come!
We moved to New Park Farm in Groombridge in 1996, where we now grow 15 acres of green asparagus, all for sale through our own shop, Groombridge Farm Shop, to hotels and restaurants and to local and London Farmer’s Markets.
Our soil is Tunbridge Wells sand overlying sandstone, lying at 103 metres above sea level, all with a southerly aspect. The land is free draining and our mixed farming system allows us to incorporate rich organic manure on a regular basis. Demand for locally produced fruit and veg has prompted us to extend our production to other fruit and vegetable crops, the produce going to the shop.
The benefit of the on farm stud and our free range chickens enables us to maintain rich fertility without recourse to artificial fertilisers. Much of our fruit and veg production is undercover so that we need fewer fungicides and pesticides. We use them when only absolutely necessary.
We grow green asparagus which, in contrast to the central European white asparagus, is allowed to come through the soil, where it photosynthesises in the sunlight. Cultivation of asparagus began 2,000 years ago in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Romans brought cultivation to Northern Europe and to the UK. From here the colonists took plants to North America and then to South America, where it is now grown to give us all year round production.
The temperate UK climate gives us an opportunity to grow the best asparagus in the world. The debate versus green or white will go on forever; we do however maintain that access to sunlight, moderate early summer temperatures and rich dressings of manure, combine to give our green asparagus that unique herbaceous flavour, hence justifying the term “green gold”.