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Invisible farm treasure

A rather saucily written article in the Guardian talks about organic gardening, but made me think about farm treasure:

William Kendall is someone who knows a bit about entrepreneurship: he was MD of the Covent Garden Soup Company and the visionary behind propelling Green & Black's chocolate into the mouths of the great British public. As a farmer's son and a chap who likes to practise what he preaches - and he preaches a high ideal of agriculture and retailing that is organic, sustainable and local - he has now set about turning his and his wife's farm into a model profitable organic farm.

Although Kendall acknowledges that he was always more interested in marketing than production - one of his earliest coups as a boy was selling eggs from his own chickens to his parents - the inspiration behind Maple Farm was the sense of community and rhythms of the farm he grew up on in Bedfordshire. The kind of life he describes was vanishing even then, but little by little his 400 acres of Suffolk are turning back to that kind of production.

None of this has come easy. Technology is so central to modern farming that Kendall has had to relearn many skills that 100 years ago would have been a normal part of farming practice - how to keep down weeds without weedkillers, how to rotate crops, what are the effects of the vagaries of our weather? Here are chickens in sociable flocks of 100, pigs rooting about in an orchard, a mini flour mill and 20 acres of vegetables for the Maple Farm box scheme that is at the heart of Kendall's vision.

Kendall's vision owes much to Albert Howard, the 20th century grandfather of organic farming, and before him, Viscount ‘Turnip’ Townshend, whose proclivity for foreign adventures was too much for the other members of the Cabinet, so he returned to his farm and popularized the Norfolk Rotation method with Thomas Coke.

Organic or modern farming would be impossible without Jethro Tull of seed drill fame, George Colley and the Colling brothers who bred domestic farm animals, and Rowland Biffen who bred rust-free wheat. They are described in the Ingenious Timeline, but I’m sure we are missing many others, forgotten farmers to whom in a very deep sense we owe our present lives.

We continue to dig up wonderful Anglo-Saxon and Roman objects on our farms. Our farm knowledge is a treasure that has to be preserved.