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from the

a regular e-diary from Hilary Peters
poem: farming
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:

1.  Intensive farming is not sustainable   2.  There are viable alternatives

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
Alder Carr Farm, Needham Market, Suffolk
PYO fruit shop selling their own ice cream, which is delicious, fruit, veg, and much organic produce. They also host a farmers' market once a month (3 Sat) There is a "mission statement" pinned to a shelf in the shop:

Fairly traded goods give small farmers like us in the "third world" a fair price for their produce. By choosing to eat these products you can become involved in changing the way the world works.

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

September 17
Friday Street Farm Shop, Saxmundham, Suffolk
Very successful and established. They sell their own vegetables and have a PYO department, mainly for their own maize. They also have a café, which I have not yet tried, but the main attraction is their up-market shop. Some excellent local produce (smoked fish from Orford, Suffolk, pies and cakes from Glemham Hall and more.

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.

September 18
Farm Café on the A12 at Marlesford, Suffolk
The idea is to use only local food and local labour. They use local suppliers for anything not grown locally. The café is open from 7 to 7 every day, so they give employment to 16 local people. A quality transport caff. Even the tomato ketchup and brown sauce are made locally. They also do cream teas and quite posh lunches.

September 20
Pound Farm, Glemham, Suffolk
Traditional Suffolk farm taken over by the Woodland Trust. Areas of woodland, mostly newly planted, broadleaf, mixed, interspersed with "wildflower meadows" which are mown. No farm animals at all, but wildlife is encouraged, with dense areas of scrub. As a do-walker, I enjoyed it, but how does it make an income? Is this the future of farming?

September 26
Bruisyard Vineyard, Saxmundham, Suffolk
Informative and interesting Walkman tour of the vines and processes. Wine tasting included. Flourishing and welcoming family business.

September 27
Easton Farm Park, Wickham Market, Suffolk
Teaching farm with splendid Victorian dairy. This is no longer used commercially, but is a museum, as is the Victorian laundry. There is historic farm machinery too. Always on view are chicks being hatched in incubators, fluffy animals for children to meet, pigs, goats, and Suffolk Punch horses, which they breed. I went to the Suffolk Punch Spectacular here. And it was spectacular! 40 Suffolks in a ring is quite a sight.

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.

October 1
The lanes of Suffolk are choked with heavy machinery. On all sides, beats are being carved out of the ground, ploughing tractors are hidden in clouds of dust as the soil is blown away, fields are saturated with assorted poisons. The lanes I drive through are lined with notices warning that sulphuric acid will attack anyone venturing onto the fields. But the balance of nature is asserting itself.

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:

Earl Soham
A medium sized village with two flourishing shops and its own brewery. The Post Office sells its own range of pre-cooked meals, the local beer (Earl Soham) and cider (Aspal) on draught, organic veg, local bread, including a potato loaf, fresh fish, and most other essentials.

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.

October 2
The Wild Meat Company
Started 3 years ago to process and pack the surplus game from shoots, deer culled from Rendlesham Forest, rabbits etc. They also give you recipes. Excellent range of game, not that expensive. They sell direct to the public, at farmers' markets and farm shops.

October 3
High House Fruit Farm, Sudbourne, Suffolk
PYO fruit. Fine range of apples at the moment: Cox, Russet, James Greaves, Jonagored, Bramley, Discovery.

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.

October 4
Blaxhall Rare Breeds, Blaxhall, Suffolk
Run by a farmer's daughter, Nigella Youngs-Dunnett whose story sums up twentieth century farming. Her father had a 130 acre mixed farm, which became too small to flourish, as it had when she was a child. He then had a milking herd of Jerseys and again did well for a time. When the pressure to get bigger and bigger defeated him, and the farm was sold.

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.

October 5
Greenway Vegetables, Stonham, Suffolk
Certified organic seasonal veg. I had squashes, courgettes, leeks. Very good. They also have 2 flocks of free range hens, fed on organic, feed. Very fresh eggs. They do weekly veggie boxes as well.

October 6
Grangeworth Quality Farm Foods
Their own beef, slaughtered locally, butchered and packed by Grangeworth. They also buy in local pigs and lambs. Some of their cows are grazing on the farm I am looking after, so I know they have a good life. Bill Palfreman who runs Grangeworth says, "We diversified before diversify was a word."

October 7
Farmers' Market at Beccles Heliport
A hell of a place, miles from anywhere and smelling of sour farming. Even the heliport is abandoned. Norfolk wind slams against the derelict hangers. But inside, the farmers' market is well attended, both by stall holders and customers. Just think what they could do in the centre of Beccles.

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...

Click here to go to the next page in Hilary Peter's Food Revolution Diary

Hilary Peters can be contacted at

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