We started selling vegetables in June 1999, when we sold our first lettuce to our postman!
The idea had really started many years ago, when we were living in Romford in the East London suburbs. Eventually (it’s a long story!*) we managed to move to Lapford in 1987, thinking that we would be able to combine running the smallholding as a market garden with holding one or two jobs. The struggle proved too much and we settled for keeping goats (and the occasional pig) and just growing vegetables for our own needs in the back garden.
The opportunity came with Dave’s redundancy and early retirement from Devon County Council at the end of March 1998. A small pension and free time meant that we could put our efforts into getting our business established and growing.
From the end of 2004, we became even busier when we started to sell some quality Garden Tools. We certainly did not set out to become mail order tool salesmen, but found ourselves stepping into that market – simply because we couldn’t find the tools we wanted!
When Dave read Eliot Coleman’s New Organic Grower in about 1993, he started looking for a UK supplier of the ‘collinear hoe’, designed by Eliot as a light, weed-cutting tool, drawn through the topmost layer of the soil with a shallow, skimming action. No bending, no backache! No-one seemed to sell these in the UK, so Dave modified (bent!) one of the hoes he could find. Good, but a bit heavy and not really good enough!
In August 2004, he started the quest again. We soon made contact with the family firm in Switzerland who make these tools and we had a real collinear hoe. It lives up to its reputation – light and really easy to use. Hoeing began to look much more attractive!
Soon we started importing collinear hoes from Switzerland and selling them by mail order. We printed our first catalogue of ‘Glaser’ tools, with all the other garden tools, many of which are also recommended by Eliot Coleman. These include oscillating stirrup hoes, specialist hoes and cultivating implements, plus wheel hoes and the attachments for them. As customers ordered what they wanted, we started importing different items from Switzerland.
In the Spring of 2005, we started stocking more of the tools and set up our ‘Online Toolshop’. After that, we gradually built up an increasing range of tools. As well as the ‘Glaser’ tools, we started selling the ‘EarthWay’ Seeder and Ladbrooke Soil Blockers, the BroadFork from Newtimber Forge, the range of ‘Ho-Mi’ hand tools from Korea and our own small range including ‘Dagger Trowels’ and a small Spatula for handling Soil Blocks, and ‘OneSeeders’ - our follow-on from the discontinued SeedSpoons. Our tools business grew slowly at first and then much more quickly since about 2014, and we found ourselves shipping quality tools literally all over the world.
In mid-2019, we began to think that it might be good to find someone younger to take on our tools business. We were already well past retirement age (whatever that is!) and our own small-scale market gardening was being squeezed by the demands of the tools business. So the search for a new ‘minder’ for our ‘baby’ began! Eventually, in late 2021, we were contacted by Dave Maine of ReAg Tools and the handover process got started! Now all our tools are handled by him on his website. Follow this link to Dave’s site, where he also has some other tools that customers have been asking us about for a few years! A really good selection!
We will be keeping this website running, both for our market gardening enterprise and also as a gateway to Dave’s site, and we shall keep all our information sheets available to download, at least for the time being.
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* In 2000, the Lapford Lookout, the village newsletter, published a series of articles in which Dave described our early days in gardening and some of the events on our way to starting in market gardening.