Metcalfe Organic Carrots

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Metcalfe Organic - Note this business no longer exists


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Lower Metcalfe Logo - Rabbit holding carrot


Metcalfe Organic grow a wide range of over 20 types of vegetables from carrots to cabbages, growing and supplying  a myriad of produce right through the calendar.  They are totally organic and operate the region's largest organic packing house. There is a high demand for organic produce and Metcalfe's has risen to the challenge and supplies a wide ranging market including the NHS 5 a Day Scheme, supermarkets, local boxed vegetable schemes, whole foods stores and food processing plants around the region, and wholesale markets as far as London!

All the crops are grown and packed to UK Organic standards and certified by The Organic Food Federation. Cropping is also under Assured Produce standards and the Pack House is certified by STS Solutions for food safety.

It is a family run, 3rd generation farm near Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire, originally growing cereal and some pig farming. Stephen and Miriam Metcalfe have been growing organic crops since 1989 and the pack house has been running since 2004.  They farm on 320 acres of land and aim to have crop availability for as long as the Yorkshire season and storage allow. Approximately 2000 tonnes of carrots are harvested annually from about 120 acres.

Planting commences in May and June and the main domestic carrot growing season is from mid August through to Easter, and when local supply is finished they import from other parts of the UK, mainly Scotland and then a small proportion from abroad, from places like Israel, and Southern Europe.  Chantenay Carrots

Main varieties which are grown are Chantenays, Nantes, Nairobi and Nepal.  Seed supplies come from the market leading Elsoms who supply the majority of UK carrot growers. An estimated 100 million carrots seeds are planted annually! which equates to around 600,000 an acre.

A large part of the company's interests lie in the supply of fresh vegetable packs to the NHS School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme, a programme to increase fruit and vegetable consumption by school children. Under this programme, all four to six year old children in LEA maintained infant, primary and special schools will be entitled to a free piece of fruit or vegetable each school day.  Metcalfes are the only organic provider for the Yorkshire and Humberside region.

Metcalfe Organic is keen to see and increase in face to face contact between buyers and growers so that buyers understand where the food comes from, reduce haulage times and increase flexibility. Local growers support the local area and its economy and should reduce transport cost and time, thereby increasing freshness, taste and nutritional qualities.

John had a quick tour of the processing and packing premises, out of season in early April 2008, to see the scale of the operation and be educated in how the processes all come together to make a smooth operation at peak periods.  

Carrots can be supplied in a variety of formats depending on market needs, including Julienne, topped and peeled, bulk or bagged, whole bulk or bagged, and whole in nets (dirty or washed).

The company even has its own natural water supply in the form of an on site lagoon, from where water is drawn to wash the carrots. 

A powerful, yet safe and effective wash solution containing Citrox (an organic citrus extract disinfectant ) is used in the carrot washing procedures. None of the unpleasantness and potentially harmful use of chlorine which many commercial producers use. This organic wash helps to prevent infection and increase shelf life through the reduction in white blushing.

Being a truly organic operation there are no weed killers used. Throughout the season and the company relies successfully on burn techniques and manual weeding in the high season.  Again being truly organic only farmyard manure is used for fertiliser.


A few carrots in the field, hand pulled to see if the harvest is good and fresh.

A quick note about the aims of organic horticulture  - Organic horticulture aims to produce healthy, good quality food in an ecologically responsible way, for which the grower gets a fair return. The system is designed to avoid the need for agrochemicals and to minimise damage to the environment and wildlife. Growers apply sustainable management practices to maintain optimum fertility and biological activity in the soil, and also aim to enhance the farm environment by encouraging farm wildlife. This helps to support plenty of natural predators, preventing pests and diseases from reaching damaging levels. A healthy soil helps produce crops that are better able to resist pests and diseases. Healthy crops ultimately mean healthy food.

The Organic Food Federation was established in 1986 and was one of the first UK certification bodies to be officially approved.

It certifies in all areas of organic food production and  processing and also inspects and certifies importers of third country products, retailers and wholesalers.  Read more about the Organic Food Federation here.

Read more about organic gardening at the Soil Association Web site here.

From Field to School ! - Click here to see a few shots showing how the Metcalfe Team go about processing lovely fresh Chantenay Carrots from the field to the bag during a visit by the Carrot Museum.

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