Enjoy - It's From Europe

Meet the organic farmers

Ever wondered what it’s like to be at the heart of organic farming? Organic producers - the people who grow our fruit and veg, look after our livestock and make homes for our wildlife and pollinators - are incredible! We get to know the faces behind your organic foods, find out why they’re passionate about organic and why they love life as a certified organic farmer.

Photo: OF&G, ofgorganic.org

Sara Cross, vegetable grower
Gold Hill Organic Farm, Dorset

Sara first became aware of organic on a trip to a remote Indonesian island which grew all of its crops organically. Sara wondered why the same wasn’t being done in England and, after returning home, was keen to put what she had seen into practice. Three decades later, Sara and husband Andrew grow over 80 different varieties of organic vegetables on their farm.

Imagining what life would be like if more farms went organic, Sara says: “The knock-on effect is great. There’ll be less pollution in our water, we won’t be so reliant on the oil that makes pesticides, and we’ll have fewer big lorries going down small lanes to deliver those pesticides”.

On why she believes certified organic is important, Sara says it’s all about the trust and transparency that people get with the organic logo. And for people thinking about trying organic? Sara’s advice is simple: “If you can, buy direct from a farm! People will be really surprised at how good the prices are. The first stop is finding a local box scheme or farm and you’ll be amazed at how much variety organic growers have.”

John Pawsey, arable farmer
Shimpling Park Farm, Suffolk

John began farming organically in 1999 after trialling organic as a diversification exercise to add value to his conventional business. Realising he enjoyed the challenge, he hasn’t looked back. “I wanted to pick something that I would feel enthusiastic and at home with and that would fit my interests, which was really building up wildlife on the farm”.

He felt that going organic allowed him to regain control of his business. Before going organic, he says, “I didn’t know where my crops were going… I felt separated from my business, and I didn’t feel involved.”

It didn’t happen overnight, but a few years after making the switch, John realised he was back in control - and making savings. “In the old days we would have spent £100,000 on inputs before we got to Christmas. Now we don’t have to store huge amounts of sprays and fertiliser on our farm, which has freed up a building that we can rent out.”

John says of his role as a steward of the land: “I feel that I’ve got such a responsibility to hand it on to the next generation in a better state than I received it in. Not only the land, but as a business as well. I feel that farming organically has actually done that.”

Emma Robinson and Ian O’Reilly, Dairy and Meat Farmers
Gazegill Organics, Lancashire

Gazegill Organics has been in Emma’s family for generations, and the farm’s ethos has been organic from the start. “It’s always come down to looking after nature, our fields, and our flowers, and the little creatures in the hedgerows”, says Emma. Looking after the soil, too, is hugely important to the couple: “Everything we owe our existence to comes from that top six inches of soil”, says Ian. “We often describe ourselves not as dairy farmers but as soil farmers. Because that’s the single most important thing.”

Animal welfare and consumer confidence is also key. With organic, Emma says, “the animals have had a longer life, they’ve had a healthier life, and for us, there’s no routine antibiotics in it, there’s fewer or no pesticides at all. It’s consumer confidence, but we need to get the word out there that organic food is good for you.”

Ian says: “It’s about trust, the ingredients - what’s gone into the animal, or more importantly what’s not gone into the animal. If we’re stood at a food show giving out samples of milk and someone is saying, ‘Oh, that takes me right back', then as far as I’m concerned we’ve done what we set out to achieve.”

It's great to know that every time you buy organic you are supporting producers like Sara, John and Emma who are changing our food system for the better. Organic works with nature, using real ingredients, with animals free to forage and graze on land that’s home to more wildlife. Just look for the green EU organic leaf logo, to find food you can trust. 

If you're inspired to grow some organic fruit and veg at home, then this handy guide by the Pesticide Action Network is packed with advice on how to deal with commonly found garden pests. Download Gardening without pesticides, here.

Hayley Coristine

Hayley Coristine

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