By Ben Robey, Operations Manager
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the South Devon Chilli Farm, half of which I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of.
What appealed to me was that this was something different, not the traditional farm I grew up working on - we were one of the first not just in the UK but in Europe!
There was a buzz about the place, it still had a start-up feel to it when I joined and it was an exciting opportunity. It also meant I could get my daily chilli fix!
Everything starts with a seed here, hence our motto “from seed to sauce”. These are nurtured by the team in our nursery before being planted out in the spring ready for a summer harvest. Once ripened, the fruits make their way a few hundred yards from our polytunnels to our production kitchen ready for use in our range of award-winning sauces, preserves & chocolates. Everything is produced onsite and is handmade in small batches to retain a home cooked flavour & minimise wastage.
The first product ever made on the farm was our “Hot Apple Jelly”, made from chillies grown in our tunnels and apples from our orchard – it doesn’t get anymore local than that! An ethos that is still the foundation of our recipes today; simple, natural & local.
As you’d expect there’s been many changes on the farm over the years but the core principle remains the same; to build something sustainable.
One of our main goals is to be as self-sufficient as possible, something that will give us more security in the long-run, which has proved more apparent over the last few years. We are now almost completely self-sufficient of seeds, each year our seed collection program gets bigger & bigger and this year we’ve collected more than ever! We are also dedicating more space than ever to our dried chillies, next year we are aiming to offer a full range of home-grown dried & flaked chillies as well as some exciting new products….. stay tuned!
In addition to this we recognize the need to reduce our footprint and having already added more growing capacity earlier this year, we also have a solar project lined up for next year which we anticipate will produce enough energy over the summer months so that we are almost fully off-grid (more on this in the new year!).
Balancing growth with ‘doing the right thing’ is no small task and we’re always conscious of the impact we’re having. We understand there is more to be done but we’re confident we’re on the right path.
Here’s to another 20 years!