Our planet has survived millions of years without the use of chemical fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides and insecticides, not to mention the heavy machinery required to administer them and the field operations associated with them. Mechanisation and chemical inputs do increase yield, but we have to question whether the quality is as good? A landmark study carried out by the University of Texas in 2004 found ‘reliable declines’ in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C in food over the past half century. So, is it possible to farm in a way to provide healthy soils, healthy crops and healthy animals to deliver a healthy diet for humans on this planet? We believe we can, but it requires a very different ‘slower’ way of farming than we have all got used to.
We are still learning as we go along, but the early signs are good. We are turning our soils around; our animals very rarely require medical intervention and we don’t use chemicals to kill animal parasites or weeds. In real terms, on our farm, this means:
Our cattle are healthy and, with the exception of accidents (for example a puncture wound from a thorn) no antibiotics are needed and we have very little veterinary intervention.
The meat and eggs we produce are delicious. There is less fat on the meat, just enough to cook well, and at a lower temperature.
Our soils display little or no water run-off. This means more water is contained in the soils and less water is able to flood on downstream taking valuable nutrients with it.
Fattening our cattle takes longer, as we don’t feed whole grains - hence the name Slow Farming. By using a mixture of grasses, herbs and some root crops, including those you might call weeds – their natural diet – they are able to extract many different nutrients. The more diverse the mixture, the more unique root and leaf forms there are to extract the different minerals, the greater the nutritional benefit to those consuming the end product, be it beef or eggs.
From the Spring to Autumn, the beef cattle are bunched into mobs of approximately 50 cows, which are then grazed over small paddocks for up to 24 hours at a time, before moving on. Whilst they eat a percentage, they also trample some of the grass back in to the soil, sequestering carbon and building soil organic matter. Once the cattle have been through, our flock of chickens move in to clean up fly larvae and other insects attracted by the cows. During the worst of the winter weather, our cattle come in to large airy buildings, where they are fed grass silage harvested from our fields during the summer months. Our cattle end their lives at a quiet and local abattoir, minimising as far as possible any stress on them.
This combination of farming enterprises is enabling us to move towards a more sustainable – in the widest sense of the word – way of living. Selling our meat directly to our customers reduces the number of steps in the supply chain and enables us to be absolutely sure of the welfare and quality of our animals. Do contact us if you’d like to try some of our amazing beef or eggs