For over 150 years Cornwall’s mild winters and maritime climate have provided a niche for the production of winter greens cauliflowers and cabbages for the rest of the country while the rest of Britain shivers and is too cold to grow vegetables. Only a few areas like Cornwall are able supply winter vegetables to meet the demands of 60 million people in the UK. Cornish farmers have been able to make money from this. Its mild climate has also favoured early potatoes. Cornwall has increased its supplies of winter greens in recent years. .
Expanding summer vegetable production
In recent years milder winters have meant competition now exists from other areas of Britain for winter vegetable production. However Cornwall’s cool temperate maritime climate may well, in the future, be an advantage for vegetable production in the summer months compared to areas further north with hotter drier summer climates. Farmers in Cornwall need to resort to irrigation far less and there are therefore fewer risks of soil damage from salinization. With increasingly unpredictable rainfall – Cornwall has an advantage because our crops are unlikely to be submerged by flood water.
Diversity and regional markets
Vegetable production has expanded and diversified in Cornwall – and regional supplies to supermarkets have increased in recent years – which helps to reduce fuel miles. Some new crops are being tested out and grown commercially in Cornwall such as a wider range of greens, sweet potato, butternut squash and asparagus.
Changes in public taste for trying different vegetables and Cornwall’s growing recognition as a centre of excellence for food has led to an increased demand for a greater diversersity of vegetables. Some of these crops are more suitable for production on mixed farms for local markets.
How much should we produce locally
Although production for local markets is an important objective in relation to reducing food miles – it isn’t as straight forward as it first appears. Cornwall has a small permanent population and it doesn’t take many farmers to provide vegetables to meet local needs. Some crops are poorly adapted to Cornish conditions and unless grown on a scale to meet local demand it may use less energy to grow them elsewhere in the UK and bring them into Cornwall.
© Andrew Ormerod 2013