Kirstin’s organic vegetable garden in the Carse of Gowrie is growing more and more

Coming from an agricultural background, it is not surprising that Kirstin Lamotte operates a market garden, where she can indulge her love of planting and cultivation.

“I run Guardswell Grows, a market garden and small-scale farm in the Carse of Gowrie between Perth and Dundee,” says Kirstin.

“My grandfather, Robert, ran a dairy farm here at Waterybutts Farm, Grange, which he then branched out into a herb farm with my mom, Fiona Lamotte. It became Scotherbs, the farm I grew up on, and was in my family until 2013. ”

Kirstin’s choice of courses at the University of Strathclyde – product design and innovation – turned out to be a good decision.

“Surprisingly, product design can be very helpful in agriculture, trying to find better and more efficient ways of doing things,” she says.

Two seasons of working on a four-acre organic vegetable farm in British Columbia taught her a lot about vegetable farming and organic principles.

“When I got back from Canada, all I wanted to do was grow good food,” she smiles. “I was fortunate to have land and equipment – as well as a large greenhouse – that hadn’t been used since the Scotherbs days, so I started with Guardswell Grows.

Growing chemical-free food on about an acre at two sites – Guardswell Farm, Kinnaird and Waterybutts Farm, Grange – Guardswell Grows began alongside the already established Guardswell Farm, which hosts rural events, courses and accommodations at the campaign.

Although Kirstin runs Guardswell Grows pretty much on her own, she admits: shovel and wheelbarrow!

Growing a variety of crops including eggplants, cucumbers, padron pepper, broccoli, kale, Swiss chard, salad, beets, beans, spring onions to name a few -a, along with 22 varieties of tomatoes, Kirstin implements organic principles like planting cover crops, rotating crops, building soil through compost and manure.

“We also grow some crops in no-dig beds, which causes less soil disturbance,” she says. “We take care of the soil because good soil health is the best way to get good quality crops. “

The coronavirus crisis has led to a massive increase in people’s interest in where their food comes from, which means demand for Guardswell Grows products has increased massively.

“People are so interested in local food and it could be a big change for our food system,” says Kirstin.

“We added more numbers to our veg box program this year and found that due to the coronavirus we are selling a lot more produce outside of our farm stand.

“We added Covid-19 precautions to the farm stand – one person at a time, everything is packed to ensure less contact, we have hand sanitizer at the door, and there is no contact from person to person.

“I feel very lucky that my job is still a necessity and means I’m outside a lot – I know for a lot of people it’s not that easy. “

Kirstin reveals that because she is fairly new to running her own farm and growing a wide variety of crops, she can make mistakes while learning all the time.

“Having to learn about all the different cultures, the way they like to cultivate and grow them with respect for nature can be tricky, but it also makes things interesting,” she says.

“Working with nature can always be difficult because you rely on the weather and the natural world to work with you.

“Farming without chemicals means that I try to take care of the natural environment. There have been times when I walk through the tunnel and there are massive amounts of aphids (little sap-sucking bugs) on the plants because I am not using any chemicals.

“The aphids will eventually kill the plant, but I just left the aphid covered plants and came back to find piles of ladybugs and ladybug larvae on the plants, which eat the aphids.

“This is just one example of nature that works well if you allow it,” she smiles.

Kirstin thinks the range of produce we grow in Scotland is amazing and should be celebrated.

“If we buy products from our region, they will probably be fresher, and therefore often tastier and more nutritious. And of course it hasn’t traveled that far, which means it’s a lot better for our planet, ”she says.

“I hope that once things get back to ‘normal’ people will continue to take an interest in how food is produced, where it comes from and supporting their local farmers. “

Terri S. Tomasini