This week we also went on a 3-day trip visiting farms on the East Coast of the UK, starting near Canterbury (Whitstable) and driving all the way up to Norwich.
On Wednesday evening we interviewed an organic grower near Canterbury. He manages a smallholding organic market garden including vegetable and free range egg production.
Today we assessed our first conventional farm near Norwich. The farm size was of a different scale than our previous farms (organic, permaculture). We met an open-minded, interested young farmer who took over the business from his mother a few years ago. In terms of sustainability the farm had a beautiful wildlife area and we could identify newly planted hedges.
We found our next farm at the edge of Ipswich on the Friday a morning. It was an interesting community supported (or led) agricultural project (CSA) called Oak Tree Low Carbon Farm. We interviewed the growers on the farm who are currently growing veggies for around 40 families on one hectare of land. The rest of the property is pasture with treelines and one hectare of a newly planted orchard. They keep two dual-purpose Red Poll cattle, few chickens for eggs and occasionally pigs, which are brought in to clean up overgrown patches. The most impressive aspect of the farm is the social side. For the members Oak Tree is not just a farm to buy healthy food from, it also is the place where they can escape from the city and find the time to relax, socialising with friends whilst doing something useful, like harvesting or packaging for the box schemes. CSA is not just about growing and getting food, it gives you the feeling of living within a local community. Unfortunately the project is not financially self-sustaining yet and relies on external funding. Hopefully they will find ways to continue thriving!
This week’s last farming system was situated near Langford. Maypole Forest Garden is a carefully designed project managed by Jonathan Barker, who is an active member of Wilderness Foundation UK and working to conserve the UK’s biodiversity. He manages wildlife ponds and shelters, a polyculture orchard and a perennial permaculture garden. Having started seven years ago, he had been inspired by the work of famous forest gardener Martin Crawford from Devon. The surface area of the forest garden is rather big, comprising of six acres of fruit trees, coppice trees and edible shrubs. Jonathan also loves teaching kids about nature here. We had a a great time during the assessment and we expect to see the development of the system in a few years from now.