High on the list of FAQs at the museum where I work must surely be ‘What do you do with all the vegetables from the cottage gardens?’ Ever since I have been there we have sold the produce on an ad hoc basis to visitors and staff, but the imbalance between quantity produced (small) and visitor numbers (high), means that we fail to address the public perception that we aren’t ‘doing anything with it’. On a busy day in high summer 30 people might go home delighted with their bag of peas/punnet of gooseberries while the other 5,870 go home thinking it's a shame we don't sell the produce. Also I can categorically state that nobody has come for a family day out at the museum wanting to carry a 2 kilo cabbage around in the pushchair!
Earlier in the year a chance remark from the director of the museum, that the chef would like some herbs to use in the restaurant, set me thinking that maybe the time was right to try a Plot to Plate project where the produce gets used in the on-site restaurant. I realise this is not a fantastically original idea - lots of places do it already. But their visitor numbers are mostly small compared to ours, and a lot of them shut in the winter. So after a bit of gentle pushing and shoving on my part, we're running it as a pilot scheme this year.
I had a very productive walk around with the chef, good for both sides to think about the practicalities. The great news is that he's very interested in the things that have always been
impossible challenging to sell, like cabbages, turnips and prickly skinned cucumbers. Conversely, not so bothered about the peas and broad beans - too much prep so they buy frozen. He also made excited faces when I said things like 'quince', 'cooking pears' and 'kale', which was extremely gratifying.
It's been a gentle start, with a few kilos of rhubarb a week and some trays of mixed herbs
I've even got some new scales
and down on the farm our new chooky girls have started laying
so it's time to get organised and start sending the eggs to the shop
the financial return on these items isn't huge
but it's part of a bigger story
and it feels like the right thing to do
and that feels good…