Farm’s growing reputation for quality

Neville Dearden (L) and Rob Waitt at Whirlow Hall Farm
Neville Dearden (L) and Rob Waitt at Whirlow Hall Farm

Ahead of next week’s Sheffield Food Festival, our latest unsung food heroes represent the flourishing brigade who supply the city with home-grown fruit and veg…

Whirlow Hall Farm is renowned for its work with inner-city children. But over the past couple of years it has also earned a reputation as a quality supplier of home-grown produce, which supports the work of the educational trust.

Much of the credit for this blossoming role must go to Rob Waitt, head of retail and catering, and Neville Dearden, voluntary horticultural advisor. Between them, they have transformed the farm over the last couple of years.

Neville, a Dore businessman, arrived at the farm two years ago to do four hours’ work. He became hooked, is now on site most days, and has boosted volunteer numbers from five to 32.

Among his innovations are acres of vegetable plots, sown and harvested on a crop rotation basis. Polytunnels are now bursting with everything from strawberries and tomatoes to lemongrass and limes – all fed by state-of-the-art irrigation systems researched and built by Neville.

He has also introduced natural pest control and pollination in the form of hover flies, ladybirds, midges and bees.

And each Wednesday, from 8.30am - 3pm, he runs a gardening ‘club’ when volunteers sow, tend and harvest the crops.

This work is carried out in partnership with Rob, who has gradually developed his role since he took it on three years ago.

His input has included introducing a café, hosting a variety of special events, and launching pick-your-own fruit and veg, as well as building up the farm shop and its reputation for quality produce.

For details of farm shop opening and events, pick-your-own, or to volunteer, visit www.whirlowhallfarm.co.uk