22 Jan 2023

Gerald Stratford: Big veg grower and social media star

From The Weekend , 11:05 am on 22 January 2023

When 74-year-old English gardener Gerald Stratford was invited to work with Gucci, he thought it was a "wind-up".

But the Italian fashion brand's offer was real, and Gerald went on to feature in their 2021 'Off the Grid' campaign.

"They came to me because they liked my recycling ethics. I recycle anything. I've been doing recycling all my life," he tells Evie Ashton.

Internet gardening star Gerald Stratford

Internet gardening star Gerald Stratford Photo: Gerald Stratford / Twitter

Gerald has always grown vegetables for family and friends, and about 14 years ago got interested in the oversize vegetable movement as an "extra",

A retired fisherman, he and his wife Elizabeth moved to the Cotswolds in 2018 to focus on gardening together full-time.

"Fishing at times can be quite selfish. And Elizabeth likes her garden, same as me. So we made a pact that we would just do our garden."

Gerald avoids chemical fertilisers and covers his raised vegetable beds with netting to keep out pests.

"I like to think my soil's healthy. And if my soil's healthy I'm going to be healthy."

Once harvested, most of the giant veges are made into chutneys and pickles. Those that've gone bad are composted in "well-rotted" horse manure.

Although Gerald describes himself as "not the cleverest of people when it comes to modern technology", he decided to join Twitter and share his gardening successes back in 2019.

About a year later, he posted this photo of his rocket potato harvest and something happened.

"All of a sudden my phone started buzzing and tweeting and making all sorts of noise. And I didnt really know what was happening. I phoned [my nephew] Stephen up and he said 'You've gone global with your spuds!"

Since then, Gerald's social media following has become a "juggernaut", he says.

"TikTok and Instagram, people like me on there."

Gerald says that when he became famous, he wasn't sure what to say yes to, but Elizabeth encouraged him to go ahead with the Gucci collaboration.

Several Zoom meetings later, he was collected for a rural fashion shoot.

"I was whisked off in a limousine one Thursday night and until late on Saturday night I was at a very private farm, filming for Gucci. It was unbelievable, it blew me away 'cause I'm not a film star."

English vegetable gardener Gerald Stratford with two models in a Gucci campaign

English vegetable gardener Gerald Stratford with two models in a Gucci campaign Photo: Gucci

On a usual day, Gerald spends quite a bit of time answering gardening questions from his social media followers.

"If I can help people with their gardening or their mental health... I will, I'm a people person."

Gerald says that, like any normal human being, he gets frustrated sometimes but "anger doesn't make any problem better".

"Sometimes [I do] if something doesn't go right but that's for me and me only. I don't want anybody outside to see old Gerald angry.

"That is creating pressure, isn't it? You're creating negativity. And I'm a very positive person … If you get angry you generally fail, so what's the point?"

Gerald Stratford is the author of Big Veg.