In today's agriculture, finding a family-run organic farm which can produce a healthy, high quality product at affordable prices and enhance the environment at the same time, is a pretty tall order. But that's what Bernard and Mary Harris are achieving at their organic beef farm in Inkpen.
The 120-acre farm, which has been registered as organic for thirty years, is run on an old-fashioned regime, using traditional herb and grass pastures and natural calf suckling in the field to produce healthy, contented cattle. No pesticides or artificial fertilizers are used and, after 30 years' conservation and organic care, the farm teems with wildlife. Partridges, hares, toads and many sensitive wildlife species abound in the pastures, hedges, woods and ponds on the farm.
One sentence summary of this article which is by Will RedmanHedges on the farm are cut only once a year and are carefully managed to provide good cover for bird life. This policy has been backed up with a planting of more than 300 mixed hardwood saplings to widen an existing hedge. In addition, three natural boggy areas have been brought to life as ponds and, with a stream in the lower pastures, the farm now supports an established population of ducks, moorhens, herons and water-loving plants.
"Its a sensible and sensitive way to farm and look after the countryside for everyone's enjoyment," Mr Harris explained. "The emphasis is on natural promotion of health in the herd and to make good commercial sense at the end of the day." Developing the organic farm has, however, been a slow process.
The Whole farm has been managed under the Higher Level Stewardship scheme for 15 years. The meadows' rich diversity of species, including sainfoin, clovers and 15 varieties of herbs and grasses, gives a beautiful display in spring and encourages an abundance of wildlife. They also make good farming practice.
'These traditional herbs are deeper rooted than modem varieties and have greater drought resistance," he said. Traditional grass and herb mix pastures supply natural minerals and trace elements essential to the health of grazing cattle. All the feeds are organically produced; hay and silage coming from the farm.
The cattle are managed on a clean grazing system and no chemicals or wormers are used. "We look to build up natural resistance," said Mr Harris. The cattle develop their own natural immunity to disease through suckling which, in most cases, entirely eliminates the need for veterinary treatments.
Mr Harris said "Customers have absolute certainty that they're eating safe meat."
The traditional system yields about a third of that of modern beef systems.The Swan Inn