a regular e-diary from Hilary Peters
started Surrey Docks Farm
in the 1970s.
As she told Sovereignty:
I am travelling round Britain, visiting people who are telling the public about farming. There is so much misunderstanding, misinformation and ignorance about farming that even the word farmer means opposite things to different people. To me, it means someone who co-operates with the land and animals to produce food. There are many ways of doing this.
In the second half of the twentieth century, chemicals, drugs and heavy machinery became widely used in farming, transforming husbandry into industry. I see this sort of farming as a dead end, so my journey is a search for farmers who are not agro-industrialists, farms where animals are not exploited and the soil is nourished, outlets where profits go straight to the farmer, teaching material which shows the whole story of farming.
Given my prejudices, I mainly visit organic farms and local projects, but I want to see industrial farms too. I think the public should hear both sides of the debate.
I am particularly interested in the interface between farming and education. As a nation, we are so cut off from the natural world that we will swallow the most outrageous nonsense if we are told it is the best scientific advice. This cut-off-ness not only makes us insensitive and so opens the way for unscrupulous people to exploit animals and the land, but it is also driving us insane.
The Foot and Mouth Policy was wrong because our whole farming policy is wrong. The mindless cruelty we saw last year is the natural descendent of factory farming. I want to show that:
I have seen how city kids respond to contact with animals and plants. Now, I am working to twin farms with schools, to get farming and growing related to all parts of the National Curriculum, to offer inner-city kids a chance to grow vegetables and meet animals.
Hilary travels around the country visiting, and reporting upon the teaching farms, farm shops, and organic initiative which are on-going. She also produces an e-diary of her travels and observations, and we are pleased to reproduce extracts here. Check our Countryside index for regular Dispatches:
September 16, 2002
Changing the way the world works. Yes. That's what we need to do. Before I can give up Tesco's, I need Alder Carr and places like it, to sell Greek-style yoghurt, dog food, a bran based cereal
What worries me is the amount of stuff that is just expensive. They fit more easily into the "niche market" niche that the NFU would like to cover all local activity.
Pound Farm, Glemham, Suffolk
Today the whole farm was host to a farmers' market. Local and organic fruit and veg, specially featuring the new apple crop, fruit juices, meat, poultry, game, fish and fish-cakes, preserves and chutneys, a few woollen goods, cheeses, ice cream, bread and cakes. A very high standard of produce and not unnecessarily expensive. Suffolk abounds in local produce and local talent. I intend to visit these farmers on their farms.
Easton is very good at teaching material, which appears on notice boards all over the farm. It is particularly informative in the milking parlour, much of it posters produced by the Milk Marketing Board. Until this June, the public could look down from the vast gallery onto the cows being milked beneath. Now Easton has given up its milking herd and the gallery remains, an echoing memorial to twentieth century farming.
Suffolk is in the middle of England's prairie farming, and it is here that the counter-revolution is most in evidence. I daily come across individuals who are selling inventive organic products direct to the public. Whole villages are rebelling against current trends; for example:
The butcher, John Hutton, under a large flag of St. George, sells organic and free range meat from local farms, his own sausages, and even milk which is as local as you'll get, from Marybell Dairy in Walpole, which processes milk from East Anglian cows.
Also superb apple juice made from all the above and a very good Cox and Bramley mix. The farm shop is self serve in the true sense. You weigh your own fruit and leave your own money.
Nigella now keeps her animals on any bits of land she can rent in the area. She has Highland cattle, Red Polls and English Whites on the marshes, Gloucester Old Spot pigs and Jacob and Shetland sheep on the local sand. She goes with her animals to the local slaughter house and has a local firm who cut up her meat. "It's as good as it can be," she says. She sells meat, wool and woollen garments to her own circle of customers and at farmers' markets.
Several growers from Norfolk including Greenwood's apple juice - outstandingly good. They also do cider, though not at this market; many free-range, organic and even Freedom Food Approved meat stalls, organic fruit and vegetables, especially roots and apples, pies and cakes galore, fresh fish, herbs and plants.
I see an opening for local, organic potato crisps, organic breakfast cereals. There was only one local cheese and that was from Suffolk -- Church Farm, Saxmundham. I mean to visit them...
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