By Julian Rose
The dreams of the early organic pioneers have been subsumed into a rush for global supply chains, strict regulations and fast-selling brands
Back in 1975, when I first started converting my farm to organic agriculture, there were no standards for production and no rule book. Just a few people committed to weaning their land off agrichemicals, improving soil fertility and supporting good animal health through regular crop rotations and through the sensible applications of farm yard manure. It was about taking a caring attitude to the overall welfare of our farms and trying to engender a wide bio-diversity of species within the farmland habitat.
We were not overly concerned about financial profit, but were interested in making an adequate return on our investments and in the quality, flavour and freshness of the foods we produced. We were perhaps more mindful than most of the words of Soil Association founder, Eve Balfour, that ‘organic’ food should be mostly unrefined and distributed and consumed locally, in its optimum condition.
I decided to develop my farm at Hardwick, in the Chiltern Hills of South Oxfordshire, on a mixed farming model, utilising a wide number of grasses and herbs in the lays and retaining all the ‘never ploughed’ permanent pasture that covers the chalk hills and sweeps along the Thames-side meadows. My view was that the dairy cows, sheep and beef cattle that I purchased to graze these meadows would produce subtle, fine flavoured milk and meat and would be kept healthy by eating their particular choice of medicinal herbs and hedgerow leaves, at will.
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