|THE BEGINNINGS OF
A NEW AGRICULTURAL REVOLUTION
says, "The more I see of real farmers producing and selling real food to real customers, the more I think we are at the beginning of a revolution."
FEB. 3, 2003.
It was a brilliant idea, which caught on very slowly. It was another 200 years before agricultural machinery really took off. I wonder if it will take as long for the pendulum to swing the other way.
I don't mean back into the dark ages of drudgery and cruelty. There's nothing wrong with technology in itself. It is the way we use it to extract the maximum profit from the land and put the minimum back, that is destructive.
At Prosperous Farm now, they don't do that. It is in the front line of progress once again.
They milk 200 Guernsey cows and sell their gorgeous milk, cream and yoghurt from the farm. You can help yourself and leave your money at any time. All dairywork is done on the farm.
I can't feel Jethro Tull would have approved. Or would he?
Dairy farming is under immense pressure in this country at the moment. To anyone who cared only about profitability, it would not be seen as a good bet. Yet that is a short-term view. When intensive dairy farming has run itself into the ground, we will still need milk. A beautifully managed herd producing a superb product and selling it locally may well turn out to be the future. Perhaps we are too caught up in the misery of today to see it.
HIGHCLOSE FARM SHOP, A4, near HUNGERFORD. www.thefarmshop.co.uk
They are not very good at saying where their vegetables, fruit or cheese come from. It would help to know more.
BOYTON FARM, BOYTON, WILTS. www.boytonfarm.co.uk Caroline Wheatley- Hubbard took time off from selling boars for export to Holland, cutting meat, fronting the farm, to show me the Tamworths (the oldest herd in the country). The pigs have a good life on top of the downs, deeply bedded at this time of year, in straw produced on the farm. The Wheatley -Hubbards grow and mill their own feed (buying in only fish meal and soya). The pigs also get a chance to rootle in hazel coppices. The farm has its own cutting room, and usually, its own butcher. All their meat is sold from the farm and at farmers' markets.
Caroline, who has been a teacher, would be more than happy to have school visits. She can arrange guided tours for groups, and lay on a hog roast as well.
COMMON LOAF BAKERY, DUNKESWELL, DEVON. www.commonloaf.com
This website represents all that people fear about a "theological" approach to farming but if you go along with my theory that religions are only languages, there's nothing to fear.
They make good bread as well.
FROCESTER FAYRE, FROCESTER GLOS.
A method of selling rather than an individual farm, they produce a very sensible brochure bearing the dreaded name of Jonathan Dimbleby.
WESTWOOD FARM, COLERNE, WILTS. Organic vegetables, free range duck and hen eggs, chutneys and preserves.
BATH CHEESE, PARK FARM, KELSTON, BATH. www.parkfarm.co.uk
Cheese made on the farm from their own Friesian cows, kept organically.
A square camembert-type, a vignotte-type and a creamy blue. All three amazingly good, which made me think it's time we stopped thinking of our cheeses in terms of other nations. Cheddar is a wonderful cheese (not represented at this market) but it is not the only cheese from Somerset. Bath cheese claims to have been going since 1801 and I only heard of it today.
CHRIS RICH, BATHEASTON, Organic fruit and veg.
SANDRIDGE FARMHOUSE BACON, BROMHAM, WILTS. Doing a delicious bacon butty, and they have a farm shop. Is it a different Sandridge from the one at Chippenham? I'll find out when I go there.
I also made two really interesting contacts at CHIPPING SODBURY FARMERS' MARKET:
AVALON FRUIT FARMS, GREET, GLOS. Who produce apple juice, cider and perry. They also have free range hens from WARREN PARK FARM TODDINGTON, keeping their orchards free of pests. They keep sheep and pigs organically too.
BARTON END FARM, CAMBRIDGE, GLOS, home of the Langland herd of Large Black Pigs. This rare breed graze outdoors all the year round and are "loved throughout their lives" their proud owner told me. The Acremans have been keeping their bloodlines going for eighty years and are interested to find that big commercial breeders now want their boars. You can order and collect their pork from the farm 01453 890200 (evenings).
The more I see of real farmers producing and selling real food to real customers, the more I think we are at the beginning of a revolution.
Jethro Tull started a pendulum swinging. Most of the revolution that began in his time was healthy and inevitable. 300 years later, the pendulum has reached the unstable top its swing and started to push back different boundaries.
That's not a terribly good analogy is it?
JIM grows organic veg and has free-range (really free) hens. He sells through veggie boxes and at Farmers' Markets. His part of the old orchards is mainly plums.
CARLOS sells fruit juice under the name of AVALON. With his partner TREVOR, who also has a plot, he has pruned the old trees (some as much as 100 years old) and planted new ones. They press the fruit on a nearby industrial estate. They press other people's fruit too. They also grow organic soft fruit. Carlos has just got his organic certificate today.
Carlos would like to develop the PYO potential of this glorious site. He would like to invite the public in to sit in the orchards and enjoy the spectacular view. He would like pupils from his children's school to come and learn about farming. He is struck by the helpless ignorance of children, even in Winchcombe, who have never seen a cow.
These are not just dreams. He and Trevor have done so much in two years to turn a redundant orchard into a going concern, there is no reason why they shouldn't do the next bit. Problems like insurance and loos are a challenge to them, not an insuperable objection.
Opposition, inevitably, comes from neighbours, who see the site as untidy, and the landlord, who wants to turn it into a housing estate. The landlord's immediate idea is to open an organic restaurant, which would fit in very well with Carlos and Jim's work.
From my experience of the Foot and Mouth year, I know now that you can have all the good arguments, you can have scientific backing, you can have right on your side, but if your cause does not fit in with some hidden economic plan, you will not get a hearing.
I fear this is true for Stop The War protesters.
I only hope it will not be true for Carlos.
This is the final report in our 11-part series written by Hilary Peters.