Rachel Kitchen has grown up on her family farm in Lincolnshire . Kitchen Garden Produce specialises in growing shallots and asparagus. It’s a family business in the truest sense of the word – her parents, Chris and Ann, started with just 22 acres in 1979.
Growing up on a busy farm meant that there were always a lot of languages spoken around her, as employing seasonal workers is a vital part of any large farming operation and many applicants for this work are from overseas. “I’ve been involved in the farm all my life, so I suppose I’ve been learning about the business from day one. We started employing workers of different nationalities when I was about ten, and I’ve always enjoyed picking up bits of different languages from them. They were the inspiration to learn Russian; one of my friends on the farm jokingly suggested that I should learn Russian to make things easier for them. Then I discovered I could study it alongside French so I thought I’d try it, just to surprise them. It worked, and I carried it on!” says Rachel. Today, Rachel’s main role on the farm is looking after all the people it employs and using her languages is key to keeping everyone happy. “Our policy is to look after our workers as we’d like to be looked after,” says Rachel. “My job is to make sure the laughter and the smiles prevail - whatever the season.”
The farm has always been an exciting and lively place to work. Initially, they reared calves and grew soft fruit for ‘pick your own’. But a conversation with a supermarket buyer inspired the family to change direction and they started growing asparagus and shallots. Asparagus is a good vegetable to grow in volume but has a very short intense season, whereas shallots have a much longer season and the work is spread throughout the year, so the crops complement each other perfectly well. “Every day is shallot season, in that even when we are not planting or harvesting, we are grading, packing, and dispatching shallots,” says Rachel.
Rachel has two tips to help your eyes water less when peeling shallots. “Firstly, peel the shallot down to the root and cut the root and base off last. Alternatively, find someone else to do it!" Finally, her advice to any young woman going into farming would be, “to have a sense of humour, a sense of determination, a bit of confidence in your own ability to try anything, and to not take things too personally.”
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