The latest publication from the Vegan Organic Network (VON) is a collection of the writings of Dave of Darlington, the thinking man’s farmer.
Dave was one of the pioneers of organic vegetable box deliveries from his market garden and workers’ cooperative Organic Growers of Durham
His writings were published in VON’s magazine Growing Green International over a period of many years and always attracted a huge amount of interest, due to their diversity, their erudition and, perhaps most of all, to the inherent humanity of their writer. Dave’s enthusiasm for sustainable farming shines through, whether he’s talking in technical terms about green manures, chipped branch wood, rotations or soil science or whether he is tackling the global, ethical and environmental issues too often ignored by most commentators on agriculture.
Readers of this fascinating collection of essays and letters will be able to trace the evolution of Dave’s market garden project from small beginnings in the early 1990s to a 150-strong customer base, at which point new members were only accepted for the waiting list if they lived within 5 miles of the market garden.
As well as running a successful veg box scheme, the cooperative carried out invaluable research in the vegan-organic sphere. Dave developed a zero tillage system using mulching and a separate permaculture hayfield with a blend of lucerne and tall fescue.
The book is a treasury of useful information for gardeners and farmers, gleaned from Dave’s long experience and enhanced by well-informed thoughts on the ethics and politics behind farming. Dave died in 2008 but it’s a fitting memorial to him that anyone who reads his work immediately finds themselves echoing a sentiment expressed by Ben Raskin of The Soil Association: “I’m sorry I never met him.”