What was the inspiration behind setting up four leaf farm?
We went travelling in New Zealand and worked with families there, who were into regenerative agriculture or owned small sustainable businesses. They had all escaped the rat race and were doing something they were passionate about.
We were always foodies but the more we learnt about where your food comes from and all the bad practices around the intensive production it made us want to make a change back to a local plot which serves a local community.
We love that this lifestyle lets us align ourselves with nature and it makes us feel more appreciative of our environment. We were also so frustrated and stubborn that we wanted to prove to everyone that it could be done.
We use a no dig method, neither of us are from farming backgrounds and we chose this method after lots of research into soil health. We wanted to choose a method which was highly productive and benefited the soil, it also means no weeding! A no brainer for us.
Who buys your produce?
There's a big mix of where we sell our produce. Lots of the high turnover crops go to our green subscription scheme. In the 20 week growing season, we had an email register and dropped off produce to local pick up points, which meant we got to meet a lot of people who were eating our food. Lots of our leafy greens go to local farm shops. We also stock the odd cafe and restaurant, including Lunchbox in Belfast. They are great because they would take our excess at a fair price and pickle a lot of our veg so it would last longer. We also did a few farmers markets.
We would describe our customer base as young mums feeding their kids, middle aged people going into retirement who have the income and time, people who are passionate about local produce and millennials who want more quirky veg. We were surprised at the mix; it just proves that anyone can value good food.
Have you seen an increased interest in sustainable food since the pandemic?
It definitely has gotten more popular, we have only been set up for one growing season but, from talking to other growers, they say there was a big difference this year in interest. Brexit also affects people wanting to buy locally. We have been told that our veg is more consistent and you can rely on the quality more than imported produce. The salad mix especially, we have been told it lasts much longer. Once someone tries locally produced vegetables, they always have a positive reaction. It’s about education and getting as many people involved as you can, answer all queries and be as welcoming as possible, like prices explain why it might be more expensive.
What’s your best seller?
The salad bag. It's a mix that changes with the seasons; from asian greens in the spring, to classic summer leaves like lettuce, to baby kale as the weather starts to get colder. There was more consistency in sales with these bags and we also incorporated rocket and peashoots, really anything that we had that would go great in a salad! They had a great shelf life and were very popular. Also, tomatoes are always popular in the summer, you just can’t beat them.