Our three small farms are fully organic, certified by the Soil Association. This means that we do not use chemical fertilisers or weed killers on our land, thus helping to protect the environment and encourage and sustain wildlife.
We are working with Nature, and this is most evident in the way that we manage our biggest crop on the farms…grass. Our Red Ruby Devon cattle and Lleyn and Hampshire sheep both depend on our crops of grass for their feed around the year.
So it is very important for us to get it right.
Apart from our traditional meadows, which are permanent pasture not ploughed since the food shortages of the Great War more than a hundred years ago, our fields are tilled with a variety of grass leys. As part of our organic system we use two separate but fundamentally similar approaches : herbal leys and clover-rich leys.
Clover-rich leys include red and white clovers and traditional grasses to give excellent pasture with the clover “fixing” nitrogen, thus negating any need for chemical fertilisers. The red clover in particular produces bulky fodder which the cattle and sheep enjoy, and it is lovely to see the red and white clovers in the fields, nestling in the rich grass.
Herbal leys comprise a mix of grasses, legumes and herbs. These often use traditional meadow grasses like “cocksfoot” and “timothy” with deep rooting herbs like chicory or plantains and some clover. This mix recreates the grassland of a traditional meadow, improving the soil structure, increasing the amount of organic matter in the soil and promoting beneficial micro bacterial activity.
Both of these grassland systems give our animals nutrients and are rich in minerals including calcium and trace elements, thus improving animal health and welfare, and giving our animals the sustainable food to grow slowly, sustainably and well.
With warmer, wetter weather, in all our fields the grass, clover and herbs are growing strongly now, providing good food for our stock now, and allowing us to take cuts of hay or haylage in the weeks ahead for winter feed.