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[Fwd: down on the farm]

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  • Richard Morris
    Date: Tue, 17 Feb 2004 14:16:40 -0000 From: peter white To various recipients Attached is the transcript of the ground breaking
    Message 1 of 2 , Feb 18, 2004
      Date: Tue, 17 Feb 2004 14:16:40 -0000
      From: peter white <p.a.white@...>

      To various recipients

      Attached is the transcript of the ground breaking radio 4 programme
      broadcast on 15 February, plus an article written by Iain Tolhurst
      explaining his background and methods in more detail. Please pass these
      on to others wherever you can, use them to generate interest and
      publicity; and if you are not already a supporter of Vegan-Organic
      Trust, then please see especially the details at the end of the transcript!

      If you do not take attachments please let me know and I will paste all
      into an email

      Best wishes
      Peter and all at VOT

      Rich's note: copy of BBC interview below, but the
      article by Tolhurst not included.


      This is an edited and somewhat paraphrased version of the broadcast. How
      can a written transcript fully convey the impact of these on-site
      recordings or put over the obvious enthusiasm, knowledge, dedication and
      sheer joy demonstrated by Tolly and his friends? Well, it can't but I
      have tried to give at least some impression of the programme, which was
      presented by Anna Hill. By the way, 'stockless' is the usual
      agricultural term for a farm having no animals, 'stockfree' is the term
      used by Vegan-Organic Trust and by Tolly here, as a more positive term
      to describe a holding where no animals are kept for commercial gain and
      where no manures or other animal by-products are used as inputs into
      the growing system - Peter

      The broadcast opened at the end of the growing cycle, with customers
      collecting their vegetable boxes from local distributors and describing
      the distribution scheme.

      Anna explained how Iain Tolhurst (Tolly) took over a dilapidated 2-acre
      walled garden with 16 acres of field scale production in 1987 and
      transformed it into a thriving market garden. But this is no ordinary
      place - it is what is known as stockless, there are no animals and no
      animal manures or by-products are used at all.

      Tolly explained that market gardens have traditionally been dependent on
      manures, but that on his holding this tradition has been broken so that
      instead of bringing in fertility there is a relatively closed system.
      The walled garden is partly bounded by a traditional flint wall, which
      is over 300 years old, partly by an old 'moat' now used as a
      conservation area and partly by trees. It is on a steep slope and the
      whole site has varying microclimates, which can make for some very late
      frosts. Much use is made of polytunnels. Tolly went on to say that the
      soil is a very important element and great care is taken of it,
      particularly its biological content such as the earthworms and other
      soil fauna.

      Crop rotations are all-important to a stockfree system and the methods
      used were outlined, with a 7 year rotation for the field scale
      vegetables and a 9 year intensive vegetable rotation in the market
      garden (an article fully describing these rotations can be emailed on
      request - Peter). The use of green manures is also a key element and a
      green manure is any plant - especially legumes - that is used for
      fertility rather than being grown as a crop.

      Anna - why legumes?
      Tolly - these plants take the abundant nitrogen from the air and via the
      soil bacteria recycle it so that it can be used as a source of
      fertility, however the green manures must be carefully managed in order
      to do this!

      Anna - doesn't such a system require a lot of land to be tied up rather
      than growing crops?
      Tolly - we are prepared to accept that some land has to be devoted to
      growing the green manures. Perhaps from the economists point of view
      this would not seem efficient but we have been doing this for a very
      long time and we actually started with a conventional animal manure
      system, so we have a fairly good idea of what the economics are. If we
      were to try to keep livestock the cost of the husbandry would in fact be
      uneconomic. So it is cheaper for us not to have animals, and a lot of
      farmers are in the same position these days, why not just use green
      manures instead? The economic argument against stockfree just doesn't
      stack up any longer.

      Anna - surely these methods could not be applied to, for example, cereals?
      Tolly - we would not grow cereals on this site, it's too small, but
      there are many examples of stockfree cereal growing. ADAS Terrington ran
      trials for many years and the economics were very good, the fertility
      cycle was very strong. There are no practical or economic reasons why
      stockfree cannot be done on a bigger scale, providing there is a proper
      price, which organic does attract, we are not talking about premiums,
      just a reasonable price. There is no reason why say a 1000 arable acre
      farm cannot be growing stockfree organic arable crops using rotations
      and green manures and given the fact that livestock loses so much money
      they would be better off doing that.

      Anna - are you saying that farmers are too greedy, trying to get too
      much out of their land?
      Tolly - no, I don't think farmers are greedy, they are just trying
      desperately to stay in business. The countryside is losing people at a
      fantastic rate, anything that brings more people back on the land is
      good and stockfree organic does have a slightly higher labour element.
      We also need to get back to local food distribution; this has started
      now and will snowball in the future.

      Anna - so how did you start your organic box scheme?
      Tolly - we started very small and informally just by talking to people
      and a system of neighbourhood reps was established who look after local
      distribution, now there are 31 local reps who look after their local
      customers. We try to encourage people to walk to collect the boxes,
      rather than use cars, this means customers have to make a little effort
      themselves and so appreciate that food just doesn't turn up on the
      doorstep! It's a neighbourly scheme and actually gives some more social
      value to peoples lives.

      Tollys views, plus the value, taste and freshness of the vegetables,
      were endorsed in interviews with some of the customers.

      Returning to the market garden, two of the staff were interviewed at the
      potato store where straw bales protect the spuds. Chris and JJ spoke of
      their enthusiasm for the work. They explained how positive it was to see
      how the environment was protected, how wildlife was encouraged through
      beetle banks, hedgerows and varying tree plantings. A key comment was
      that the work is about practical environmentalism, beyond just protests
      and ideas, and just being here is a pleasure!

      Anna - what do you both think about stockless systems?
      Coming from a conservationists viewpoint, its about being wildlife
      friendly, through the rich eco-system, lack of pesticides and so forth.
      Stockless is also completely relevant as it is a closed system not
      taking anything away from the land, its an efficient system.

      Anna - and I suppose you two are the most efficient things on the farm?
      Oh yes!

      Back to Tolly again

      Anna - you are interested in local food, so how big do you want to get?
      Tolly - well, that's a good question, which we have often pondered;
      getting too big would not be a good idea - personal involvement would be
      lost and I enjoy the practical growing side too much. Up to about 500
      weekly boxes is about right for us, so long as the distribution system
      is in place.

      Anna - it looks like you have sustainability in practise here
      Tolly - we hope so, it is very difficult to measure sustainability in
      its various forms but we know that we are pretty near to soil
      sustainability, we are not losing the essential nutrients, these are
      steadily improving, as far as we know at the moment we can maintain
      fertility indefinitely within our closed system.

      Anna - you could do this in your back garden couldn't you?
      Tolly - yes, you certainly could, lots of people do so and we are very
      happy to see that but many do not have the necessary time.

      Anna - and you are all about delivering a personal service?
      Tolly - Yes, we like people to be able to identify our produce with our
      farm. We have farm walks here, visitors from all over the world,
      overseas students come bringing welcome ideas and all this is an
      important social element for us.

      Anna - why isn't everyone using your system, is it too much like hard work?
      Tolly - stockfree has been done successfully in many countries for
      centuries, look at China for example and it does work on any scale, but
      as with many things it has never been done here before. People do like
      to see it happening and we help to inform them. We hope it is going to
      increase. There is a movement now, there is the Vegan-Organic Trust
      which is very active in promoting stockfree farming, there is also a new
      set of standards which they are about to launch in the next few months
      under the wing of the Soil Association. These standards will be a world
      leader. There has never been a set of stockfree organic standards
      anywhere in the world so Britain is leading the way. We have to start
      thinking about better use of the land and even conventional farmers
      could benefit a lot from for example increased use of green manures.

      The programme ended on this affirmative note

      After this programme what next?

      All in all a very positive message that Vegan-Organic Trust will build
      upon,............next we hope to feature stockfree in the
      Archers!..............well, Tolly used to advise the producers of the
      Archers when organic farming was first featured on the programme!

      Vegan-Organic Trust is an educational and research charity that exists
      to promote stockfree organic growing. If you are not already a supporter
      of Vegan-Organic Trust please do unite with us in helping to show the
      world how stockfree growing will benefit people, animals and the

      Details of how to become a supporter are on the website www.veganorganic.net
      Or by post from Patrick Browne (VOT), 161 Hamilton Road, Longsight,
      M13 0PQ

      Information about stockfree methods and how they can be applied on
      farms, allotments and gardens is featured on the website, along with
      other information and links to other sources.

      This text may be freely reproduced so long as the contents are not
      distorted and Vegan-Organic Trust, its purpose and contact details are
      mentioned; please pass it on to anyone who may be interested.

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