Organic farming is farming as it used to be; working in-step with the environment to maintain a healthy soil system and the highest animal welfare standards. Our experience is that organic farming offers an altogether more sustainable approach to farming. We are certified by Organic Farmers and Growers in following their guidelines and regulations we avoid using harmful synthetic pesticides, sprays, herbicides, fertilisers, GM Feed and, wherever possible, antibiotics. This ensures that the pastures from which our animals graze, and the soil from which our apple trees grow, are naturally fertile. Equally our livestock are not given medicines or vaccinations that they do not specifically need.
Here we breakdown some key benefits of organic farming:
There are significant nutritional differences between organic and non-organic meat. In the largest study of its kind, an international team of experts led by Newcastle University, UK, reports that organic meat contains 47% more omega-3 fatty acids, but significantly lower concentrations of the undesirable saturated fatty acids myristic acid and palmitic acid.
Newcastle University’s Professor Carlo Leifert, who led the study comments: “Meat is an important source of omega-3 in our diet, especially for individuals who consume little or no fish. Switching to grass-fed organic meat may allow meat consumption to be reduced by around 30% without a reduction in total omega-3 fatty acid intake.” Professor Chris Seal from the Human Nutrition Research Centre (HNRC) at Newcastle University comments: “Omega-3s are linked to reductions in cardiovascular disease, improved neurological development and function, and better immune ability.”
Overuse of antibiotics in animal rearing, a practice which is strictly controlled under organic regulations, is a growing concern to human health. Research from the University of Cambridge in 2016 has shown that, as a result of routine antibiotic use, the number of E.Coli bacteria that are resistant to key antibiotics is increasing rapidly on meat from all eight of the major supermarkets. The Food Standards Agency acknowledge that there is a ‘significant threat’ to human health from antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
Organic farming is vastly better for local ecosystems and water courses, when compared to an approach that utilises chemicals that inevitably reduce biodiversity and drain into the water system. In September 2016 more than 50 conservation groups produced a report suggesting that intensification of farming is a significant driver of nature loss in the UK. The report pointed to increasing use of pesticides and herbicides, increased fertiliser use, the loss of hedgerows from farms, and changing farming practices for the dramatic loss of wildlife from the countryside. Conversely, organic farms have been shown to have over 75% more plant species and 50% more wildlife than non-organic farms. In the mean time we are experiencing ‘an insect armageddon‘. Our mix of farming activity fosters biodiversity far better than damaging monocultures that destroy hedgerows, woodland and soils.
Organic soils have also been found to store on average 28% more carbon than their non-organic counterparts. A report by the Soil Association estimated that if the UK converted to organic agriculture, it would instantly offset at least 23% of its carbon emissions. From an environmental standpoint, organic farming provides a model of best practice, especially when you consider that the chemicals used in non-organic commercial farming also use large amounts of fossil fuels to produce and transport.
An organic mixed farming model allows for a closed-loop system characterised by low reliance on inputs such as synthetic nitrogen fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides, and fossil fuels for highly mechanized systems, low waste, and symbiotic reltionships between our farming areas. Our chickens and cattle produce nitrogen-rich manure for our fields, our bees pollinate our apple blossom, and our spring supplies our livestock with water. Greater use of pastures ensure that an organic grass fed approach compliments, rather than competes with, human food needs. Manures are recycled back into the soil, minimising waste and conserving non-renewable resources. Such farms are therefore more resilient and better equipped to cope with uncertainty as they are less dependent on volatile commodity prices and the global agribusinesses.
Needless to say, organic farming and good animal welfare go hand-in-hand, with organic farms having the highest standards of animal welfare in the U.K. Certifying bodies, such as Organic Farmers and Growers, provide strict regulations covering living conditions, space, feed, day-to-day treatment, the use of antibiotics, and all aspects of animal husbandry, as well as transport and slaughter. You’ll find that our animals live in an environment that is much the same as their natural habitats where they can express their natural behaviours. Our beef and lamb are grass-fed all year round, and our pigs, chickens, hens and trout, when not foraging, eat organic blends. We are always happy for our customers to come to the farm, meet us and see our livestock.
Sadly, organic farms only account for 2.9% of farmland in the UK, and at present more than 90% of chickens reared for meat, 60% of pigs and 15-20% of cows are kept indoors in the UK.
We also feel that using organic matter and harnessing natural processes to manage our pasture is what lies behind the superb taste of our produce. It has been our experience that by stewarding our land and livestock to the highest standards (which is surely only possible when farming on a small scale) the quality of our produce has benefited greatly. The awards we have won over the years are a testament to that, as are the responses we get from some of the South West’s most renowned chefs. We hope you’ll agree.
For further reading we recommend Graham Harvey’s Grass-Fed Nation, and anything by Joel Salatin or Wendell Berry.