Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Rural Affairs minister has hailed a vibrant market garden as “fantastic” example of sustainable food production.
Llyr Gruffydd MS has called for more support for homegrown producers while on a visit to Pili-Pala Farm in Cwm Nant-y-Meichaid, Llanfyllin.
The market garden is part of a COP26 initiative to move towards climate-smart agriculture and food systems which sees it sell its popular produce in the local Spar.
Set on an acre of land among the rolling hills of Mid Wales, the eco-friendly fruit and veg producer has proved to be huge hit with local customers.
The food grown on the site benefits from a special valley micro-climate that is of full sun, and reduced frosts.
The produce is fresher, tastier and higher in nutrient value than fruit and veg imports because it usually hits the shelves the day that it is picked and it gets to spend longer on the vine.
The main growers are Tom Edwards, and his nephew Charlie Felton, with the rest of the family chipping in to help occasionally as well.
Llyr Gruffydd MS said: “Pili-Pala Farm is a great example of what can be achieved in terms of sustainable food production right here in Wales
“What Tom and his family have done here is nothing short of fantastic.
“There is a cultural shift that is beginning to take place where we’re seeing people move back towards buying local food.
“What Pili-Pala Farm is showing is that there is clearly a demand for high quality, homegrown, sustainable and environmentally friendly produce.
“As a country we need to make our food systems far more resilient. We need to make ourselves less reliant on foreign imports.
“At the moment we are importing far too much of our fruit and vegetables which is often of a much lower quality than what is produced at home.
“Bringing in vast quantities from the continent is bad for the environment and often it is worse for the customer as well.
“That’s why its vital that we support homegrown producers like Tom.”
Tom Edwards said: “We sell the produce direct so there’s no middle person involved,
“You can grow an awful lot on a small scale. Market gardens are coming back into popularity, certainly in Canada, America and Europe, and in Scandinavia in particular.
“On our small one acre market garden, we encourage ecological diversity, and pay special attention to the soil.
“Because of that we don't dig. Instead we nourish the surface with green waste compost, so the soil life stays healthy, and our plants are able to thrive. It’s also a haven for pollinators.
“We’re focusing our efforts on regenerative growing strategies such as constantly adding green waste organic material to the surface of our beds, and leaving the soil life to do the rest.
“To date, the clay soils have been improved with over 100 tonnes of compost.
“We have a daily Pili-Pala Mini Market Stand inside the Spar at Llanfyllin which is proving to be very popular with customers. In our dedicated area, we will have a small range of our home grown fruit and veg, at prices we set.
“The vast majority of produce is picked within 24 hours, and is often harvested the same day. We replenish stock every morning, so it's always nice and fresh.
“We harvest our fruit, veg and flowers daily, and so customers will often receive our produce the same day it was picked. Therefore, it lasts longer, retains more nutrients and in our opinion it tastes a whole lot better too.
“We don’t apply any chemicals such as pesticides to our produce either. Our home grown fruit and veg is transported just 2 miles to our Spar based farm shop
“It’s very important for us to be commission based because we’re not doing things on a massive scale so it would be difficult for us to operate as a wholesale business.
“We decide what goes in so I can turn up every morning with fresh produce that is high in nutrient value.
“Our farm is here to be experienced by all, and we encourage customers to see where their food comes from and learn about the regenerative methods we use. We want Pili-Pala Farm to be a haven, not just for wildlife in the area, but for people too.”