Oli Baker is our outdoor rhubarb grower at Mora Farm in Cornwall. Oli supplies us with soft fruit, outdoor rhubarb and root vegetables through Good Earth Growers, their organic growing project in Cornwall. Inspired by the no till, no pesticide philosophy of Japanese farmer Masanobu Fukuoka, Oli treats his quarter-acre fields as small gardens - letting biodiversity flourish and nurturing the soil for the future. Oli’s incredible fruit and vegetables prove that growers can produce at a higher volume without the need to sacrifice sustainability, flavour or craftsmanship.
Jan - March
A sprawling tuber, Mashua Roots require a lot of room to develop fully. As a result they are largely not grown by industrial producers, who demand a higher yield per square metre. To Oli, the reward for growing these tubers is not only their unique, peppery flavour, but the effect they have on his organic soil. Left undisturbed throughout the early growing season, soil life thrives under the protection of the Mashua’s vast root zone. Oli waits for the first hard frost to kill off the leaves before harvesting, certain of the intense concentration of sugars and salts in the roots. Any remaining crop debris enriches the soil, ready for spring planting.
Apr - June
Ducks and hens run freely over the untreated fields. Oli harvests at daybreak, when the plants are still heavy with nighttime moisture; he locks this in by immediately removing the leaves. He starts the season with Timperley Early - picked young before the colour fades - and moves on to Fulton’s Strawberry and Raspberry Red.
July - August
The best strawberries we’ve ever tasted. A self-pollinating variety grown entirely outdoors, these are the latest maturing of all English strawberries but well worth the wait. Grown organically entirely outdoors, the mild climate of the southwest and minimal irrigation concentrates sugars in their firm flesh.
June - August
These redcurrants are a completely different fruit to the heavily sprayed, intensively grown varieties which come out of Holland. Cordon grown directly in organic, nutrient-rich soil, the results are testament to Oli’s skill as a grower. Even spacing along the strand means larger currants, exposed to unregulated Cornish sunshine and then picked by hand.
July - August
The first variety to harvest is Ebony, a sweet dessert Blackcurrant which Oli tells us should be eaten uncooked, if not straight from the bush. The high-yielding Ben varieties follow: Hope, Sarek, Lomand and Tirran. Commercial blackcurrants grow in irrigated tunnels, swelling the fruit with excess water and diluting their flavour. Oli’s fruit grows out in the field with no irrigation, their concentrated flavour a result of skilled growing and the organic soil. Their slowest fruit to pick, but the sun-sweetened return is worth the effort.
Highly prized by everyone on the farm including the blackbirds, Oli’s Jostaberry bushes are thoroughly netted. A hybrid variety, their flavour combines the sweetness of a ripe blackcurrant with the acidity of the Cornish gooseberry. Picked at full maturity, their skins range from purple to almost black in colour. Grown in open fields, the bushes are completely unsprayed and fed only with organic compost and woodchip. They can reach up to 3 metres in both height and width, meaning the pickers have to carefully climb into the bush to harvest the best fruit.