Left to right: William, Alan and Duncan Mitchell
Harvest starts: November
There’s an inscription in old family bible attesting to the fact that brothers Alan, Duncan and William are the latest in a line of Mitchells to have farmed in eastern Scotland at least as far back as 1740.
Since 2006, the Doric-speaking brothers have grown organic carrots in the fields stretching from Morayshire down to Aberdeenshire. Growing in these northerly regions gives a late harvest for British organic carrots – it also means the local soils are cooler, which can help protect crops naturally from disease.
However, by November the Mitchells have to insulate their crops with a two-foot layer of straw, which gives them a major task for almost a third of year. Duncan says: “Straw is a big thing. By the time you harvest and secure the baling of the straw, cart the straw and spread the straw on the fields; that’s a long period covered. You’re on straw basically from the end of July right through to the end of October.”
Working the straw is just part of the never-ending growing cycle, with the brothers often working dark early mornings and late evenings. Duncan says: “From Christmas onwards the straw is taken off and we’re well into harvesting carrots. Then it comes to the spring; mid-March onwards is when we’re by far the busiest harvesting. This is a very intense period right through to the beginning of June. December and January are the quietest, but there’s not many months you get to slack.”
Rotation is key to healthy organic carrots, says William. “It’s a healthier way and helps any soil borne diseases or pests building up in the soils. You’ve to have so many years between crops to stop this happening. Part of the organic idea is to use the rotation of the crops to your advantage, and to the advantage of the soils as well,” he says.
How do they like to eat their organic carrots? “Raw, as they come,” says Alan, “I just wipe off the earth and eat them.”
Meet the growers…
Alan, Duncan and William Mitchell