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Why top chef Skye Gyngell loves Fern Verrow’s biodynamic produce
Skye Gyngell is one of London’s most acclaimed chefs. Her new restaurant, spring, celebrates the seasons and uses only the best, freshest and most authentic foods & ingredients. Her menus are an inspiration. She shares her passion for biodynamic produce from Fern Verrow farm, and why she believes biodynamic farming is important.
How long have you been using Fern Verrow’s produce?
We have been working with Jane and Harry from Fern Verrow for 18 months. I first approached Jane about working with us at spring in August 2014. It took almost six months to draw up a plan before we were ready to begin working together on a weekly basis.
We drew up a list of all the vegetables we love to use throughout the year (essentially a wish list) – then Jane and Harry let us know which would be possible and which would not, and gave us some suggests to of what they grew really well and we’re passionate about. The finances had to be worked out, the seeds ordered and planted, and then of course everything had to grow! They now supply most of our salads and vegetables.
How does their produce inspire your menus, and what makes it special for you?
I think really the menu at spring is totally defined by the produce we receive from Fern Verrow. Our menus are ENTIRELY written around what is delivered to us – everyone who works at spring is 100 percent on board both Front of House and in the kitchen. Everyone has visited the Farm and loves the produce. I think the customers really love it too! It is so different from anything we can buy from any regular suppliers – the flavours so fresh and vibrant that it would be impossible not to notice how beautiful the produce from Jane and Harry is.
Do you visit the farm?
I spend quite a lot of time with Jane and Harry at the farm – it’s a really important part of our relationship – in the same way it is important that they visit and eat in the restaurant.
We communicate also a lot through photographs – each week we send them photographs of the dishes using their produce – they find this really essential in understanding what we want and how we think. They send us lots of photographs of the produce in the ground so we can visually see what size and shape it is and have some say in when it is picked.
How important do you feel the biodynamic approach to growing food is?
Biodynamics just makes a great deal of sense to me! Why wouldn’t vegetables be happiest if they follow and are in tune with the rhythms of the planet! That’s really a no -brainer to me. Biodynamics to me goes way beyond organic farming – I see that completely in the taste and quality of the produce we receive.
I’d really like to see more models such as ours springing up – as I say to everyone all the time – to me our relationship is bigger picture thinking – if we can do it and make it work finances absolutely come into that), then other restaurants and farms can form these relationships.
How would you describe your relationship with Fern Verrow?
In essence our relationship is a true partnership – Jane always describes it as a marriage – we have made a commitment to each other to support one another. I take my responsibility towards Fern Verrow very seriously – we are committed to taking their vegetables over and above all others – while I don’t ask for an exclusive relationship from them (they are free to sell to whoever they want) from our side it is exclusive. They feel the same way though – so we are committed to each other first and foremost.
It is a win- win situation – from our side we get a say in what vegetables are grown for us – I believe they are the most beautiful available in this country. They in turn are paid properly for their hard work – and can concentrate on what they love to do, which is grow and harvest – without having to have their prices beaten down by a middle man – and be unable to make a living.
How do you feel the partnership has worked for you personally?
I feel good that we are involved and close to 16 hectares of good, clean soil – and contributing respectfully to a farm. I want to be part of the solution – not the problem.
My relationship with Fern Verrow is one of my most important relationships in my life. I love working closely with Jane and Harry – it is so mutually creative! I’d be lost without their produce.