You could easily miss the shop at Newfield Organics. It’s no more than a shed in the farmyard, so modest that you’d never guess that it’s the front end of one of Yorkshire’s most impressive food enterprises.
There’s nothing flash about Rosemary Wass either. Aged 70, she can still spend her day lying face down in a sling being towed along a field by a tractor, hand weeding carrots. If you are an organic grower avoiding pesticides and herbicides, then using this ‘bed weeder’ is, according to Rosemary, the only way.
For twelve years, Howard and Rosemary Wass farmed their 200 acres conventionally before they came to realise that they were tied into a chemical regime that they felt was unsustainable. In 1980 they began the long conversion to totally organic farming.
Working seven days a week over twelve years and with the help of their teenage children, planting 85,000 plants, they eventually achieved official Soil Association organic status, doubling their turnover, achieving record harvests and improving the structure of the soil.
The farm that looks out onto the village green in the gentle village of Fadmoor is where Howard Wass was born and which Rosemary, a radiographer, married into. Their children now have their own careers elsewhere so the farm leans heavily on Rosemary’s ‘passionate’ farm manager John Simpson.
Between them, they’ve made Newfield Organics into a highly respected organic farm. Their Texel and Suffolk Cross lambs and beef from a suckler herd of Charolais and Luing cattle supply organic meat to the likes of Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and M&S who, in 2004, named Newfield, the National Organic Grower of the year.
For a farm situated 650ft above sea level, one of the highest organic farms in the country, they also grow an impressive range of vegetables. Row upon row of vibrant healthy crops of fennel, cauliflower, red cabbage, savoy cabbage, carrots, kalettes, kale, cavalo nero, leeks, swedes, pak choi, onions, beetroot, spinach, potatoes… the list goes on.
Their crops supply wholesalers and smaller local organic growers like Goosemoor Organics at Wetherby and Goodness Growing at Strensall near York, to supplement the growers’ own supplies. They supply The Organic Farm Shop in Pickering and Fairchild’s in Scarborough and, proudly, Manchester’s Unicorn Grocery, a co-operative supermarket which, in 2017, won Best Food Retailer in the BBC Food & Farming Awards.
The Newfield Organics shop is open year-round. It’s important, says Rosemary, to keep people in touch with where their food comes from and what’s in season.
She acknowledges a ‘hunger gap’ in May and June before the summer crops are ready, but thereafter the shop fills up with beans, peas, summer squash, cucumbers, radish, lettuce, herbs and fresh eggs from their organic flock. Yes, you could easily miss it, but your larder will be enriched by finding it.