Growing organic fruit and veg in Cumbria was never going to be easy.

Neither the damp, cold northern climate, nor the soil lend themselves to horticulture.

However, since it was founded by Mike and Debbie Simpson in the late 90s, Eva’s Organics, in Low Luckens, has not only managed to grow great produce but also its footprint across Cumbria and southern Scotland.

This year the business is also launching a new venture to open a commercial kitchen and add readymade meals to the deliveries it sends out every day.

The business began when Mike and Debbie began buying fruit and vegetables to sell in their local area.

"It was very small scale, just family and friends almost," says their son Robert, who joined the business in 2016.

"But it took off and very early on they wanted to start producing their own fruit and vegetables.”

They began by renting an acre of land in Low Luckens, in the countryside near Longtown

n, with one polytunnel and some outdoor production.

About six years ago they bought the whole 16-acre farm, about half of which is now in production.

The business employs 11 people, working to grow produce, delivering boxes to people’s homes daily and also making award-winning apple juice from its orchard.

While Debbie still works in the business overseeing the administration and customer service related to the delivery of produce boxes, Mike is looking to reduce his time working the land as he moves towards retirement.

However, Robert’s brother David is planning to join the business as part of its latest venture, Eva’s Kitchen.

“We’re turning one of our old barns into a commercial kitchen and we’re going to be making extra things like soup, pies and salads to put into our boxes,” says Robert.

“It’s a great way to use produce when we have an excess. Hopefully David will be heading it up because he has a background as a chef.”

Eva’s Organics, which picked up the Green/Ethical Business of the Year Award at the in-Cumbria Business Awards last year, is focused on growing its produce in a sustainable way that encourages and enhances biodiversity.

“We think the way we produce food should be replicated,” says Robert.

“The way that food is currently produced is not really sustainable or viable. It's been this race to the bottom in terms of cheapness and single mono crop production, never really thinking about what the impact might be on the local surrounding wildlife.”

The farm has been organically certified from the very start and every plant is grown from seed and cultivated without the use of sprays, pesticides or herbicides.

The majority of the irrigation is done using water from a spring and harvested rainwater.

Solar panels power the walk-in chillers used to store the crops and plants like clover or comfrey are grown and turned into a mulch or solution to use as fertiliser.

The farm aims to work with the various birds, insects, hares and rabbits that exist on the farm, to the extent of even building deer walkways which allow the animals access while still protecting fruit trees from their damaging nibbling.

With the price of fuel rising dramatically, Robert says the ambition is to replace its vehicles with electric delivery vans as soon as possible, although the cost of electric vehicles currently makes this impossible.

The family are in the process of establishing a new orchard, working with Cumbria Wildlife Trust to plant wildflowers as part of its Planting for Pollinators project.

“You might have a row of apple trees and then within that you would have another crop such as rhubarb,” says Robert.

“But then alongside that, you might have a strip of wildflowers. On top of all that you might have little areas that are a wildlife haven, so it's basically just anything you can think of that might benefit wildlife all in one big, fantastic project.

"There's a big difference between buying and selling fruit and veg and actually growing it.

“The growing side of it is very, very hard. You get all these headaches that you don't have when you just buy in and sell on, but it's such a big part of what we're about. If we were to stop the growing side of it it would just make no sense to us.”