Dowhill farm owner Gordon Caldwell is a man on a mission as he urges people to grow their own food and buy from local producers.
Gordon, who has run the farm on the road between Turnberry and Girvan for the past six years, was more than happy to show off his skills and expertees to a group of food lovers last month.
On Friday, September 27, as part of the Taste Ayrshire food festival, Gordon gave a tour of his farm in two fascinating hours to three young chefs from Turnberry, a representative from Grants of Prestwick, Jean and Janette Wilson from Limetree Larder in Kilbirnie, and modern cooking apprentices from schools in North Ayrshire.
And very kindly Gordon also invited me along to learn about all the vegetables he and his team grow on the farm.
After an early meet and greet, we all crossed over the busy road to go to the first vegetable growth patch. There, Gordon showed off the different types of carrot that are grown at Dowhill. He admitted that it has taken him almost five years to make sure that he is collecting the proper and correct carrots out of the ground when he is preparing to send them off to local food shops and suppliers.
He told his captivated audience that this region of the country is great for growing vegetables most of the year and the fact the carrots are grown extremely close to the sea gives them a slightly different taste from what you would be used to.
Gordon said that making the tweaks to how to get the best vegetables out the ground is where he finds the most enjoyment in the job; that’s if the flies haven’t got to the carrots first!
From there, it was onto the massive amount of leeks Dowhill grows, with Gordon saying that up to 3000 leeks can sit in one of their beds and that when the team harvest the leeks, they can harvest up to a ton an a half of the vegetable, famous for its uses in soups.
Next up were the fields where youcan see turnips grown as early as St Patrick’s Day in March, which could well be the earliest in the country. The heatwave this year meant that demand wasn’t quite as high but last year, during a rainy summer, people couldn’t get enough turnips.
Mid-June is the time when the first broccoli and cauliflower start to produce with Gordon saying they just let them grow until they reach the required size.
Questions were asked of Gordon at this stage about his attitudes towards spraying his crops with pesticides, which he said was the right thing to do in order to protect his crops and ensure the best quality was produced all the time.
A range of different views proved that everyone was enamoured with what they were learning.
And it wasn’t long before the attendees were getting a taste of the varieties of beetroot grown in the fields; although there was none for this writer as it is the one vegetable I cannot stand. It did go down well with the rest of the visitors though.
Gordon was thoroughly pleased with the turnout for the event and was pleased to offer some produce at the end to his guests.
I enjoyed it so much that I went back two days later to purchase goods from the shop!