Backdated to January 1st 2020, Stolford Farm has been granted organic status, and we have also had our Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS) proposals accepted. The main and most obvious impact of organic status means that no chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides will be used at Stolford in the future, and all our seed, feed, and livestock will have to be sourced from other organic farms and suppliers. It doesn’t suit every farming operation and we’re not blowing our own trumpets, but we are very pleased to join this growing trend for UK agricultural enterprises. The downside is that it does mean we’ll have to work harder and smarter to achieve the kind of productivity that non-organic enterprises enjoy. But that’s part of the fun and the challenge of taking organic status on, and we’re looking forward to it.
The CSS agreement itself means that we can also now get on with hundreds of meters of traditional hedge laying and a lot of coppicing, plus we have plans to plant a lot more Exmoor native trees in various unproductive or difficult to access corners of the farm. We will also be leaving parcels of land to re-wild, and we will leave certain hedgerows alone for longer periods to do their natural thing. Overall, we hope that all the above will make your stay here at Stolford more diverse and rewarding, as we try to do our bit for the planet.
But organic or not, farming life goes on, and here are some pictures of operations here at Stolford over the past week or so. You can see we got a nice even stand of barley, and the grass was as good as we could expect given the eight weeks of ‘drought’ the UK suffered in late Spring early Summer. In anticipation of our organic proposals being accepted, we adopted all the rules in July 2019 so this year’s grass and cereal crops were all produced the organic way, with good old fashioned farm yard manure as the fertilizer source, and organic seed for the grazing refresh, and the barley. We need to work harder now on getting our fertility right going forwards, no more quick wins with the chemical fertilizers and no more chemical weed control. For this reason we are adopting a regime that will see our fields rotating in legume crops such as Lucerne (Alfalfa), Sainfoin, and clover, all natural sources of nitrogen. We will also be putting in a heavier dose of herbage and clovers into all our leys, and we are looking at a variety of break and stubble crops including turnips, forage rape, and Sainfoin, not all of which are nitrogen fixers, but all help fertility with either organic matter, variety, or pest and disease breaks. In addition to that lime, for reducing soil acidity, and natural (organic) sources of phosphorous and potassium will be applied where necessary.