Q: Do you know where your meat comes from – and do you care what is in it?
Hello, ‘Moor Wholesome’ is the brand by which I market the produce from Arcady, my smallholding – it is in the Dartmoor National Park (on the outskirts of Ilsington) and I am a member of the Wholesome Food Association – hence ‘Moor Wholesome’!
The Wholesome Food Association is the small-scale alternative to full Organic Certification for producers committed to natural farming and the production of natural wholesome food for local customers. Part of the WFA’s commitment for producers is that there be an ‘open gate’ policy of some sort. If you are interested in becoming a customer (or are already one!) and would like to see the animals on the smallholding, then do get in touch and we can arrange for you to visit. For how much of the food that you eat are you able to do that?!
My aim is to develop a sustainable and resilient smallholding that contributes in some small way to the broader movement towards a re-localisation of the food supply. I also wish to supply produce that is just not available in the supermarket, and rarely on the high street, unless you are blessed with living near to a high-quality and conscientious butcher. Meat from rare and traditional breeds that is slow-grown and raised according to organic principles for a supreme eating experience – that is what I aspire to provide – and eat!
I have found the approaches, tools and philosophy of permaculture to be very helpful in thinking about sustainable land use, and have put some introductory information and links about it on a page of this website. I also increasingly follow the principles of biodynamic agriculture – the most complete approach that I have found towards natural and wholesome farming; so far, in addition to adhering to broad organic principles, this has involved making use of the planting calendar, biodynamic vegetable seeds, and the biodynamic preparations for enhancing soil vitality. I have also left the horns intact on the cattle that have been born on my holding (the only local certified organic Dexters I found to start my herd had had theirs removed). As someone with a scientific education and training (some might say indoctrination), there was an initial skeptic’s barrier towards the biodynamic approach when I first came across it – and despite mainstream science’s catching-up with and validation of many parts of the biodynamic approach, I feel it is necessary to be open-minded to this approach and be guided by one’s experience (rather than scientific reductionism). My instinct and experience tell me that the biodynamic approach is fundamental in returning to production of food of high quality and nutrition.
The crops that I grow are always from open-pollinated seed – see my Seed Saving page for why this is – although I am open in the future to de-hybridising F1 varieties, as set out by Carol Deppe. I never use livestock feed containing GM ingredients – see the report GMO Myths and Truths – or watch the documentary Seeds of Death – if you are at all tempted to embrace GM technology!
I try, wherever possible, not to use fossil-fuelled machinery on my smallholding. This is partly in recognition of the damage that the fossil-fuel industry and its products do to the world, but in the main for reasons of resilience-building: given the likelihood that we have reached (or will soon) a peak in production of ‘cheap’ oil and other fossil fuels (and their products, such as chemical fertilisers) then I consider it wise not to rely on inputs that as well as being damaging to the environment are likely to become scarcer and prohibitively expensive during the next decade or two. Tractors, rotavators etc do not come cheap, which is an issue when running a smallholding on a limited budget! In utilising methods and developing techniques and systems that do not rely on heavy farm machinery I hope not just to build some degree of resilience into my smallholding, but also to demonstrate a model of resilient smallholding that may be used by others. Of course, I rely on the fossil-fuel-driven machinery of others, e.g., when buying in haylage for winter livestock feed – this is something that will have to be addressed at a future point – I have ‘had a go’ at making hay by hand, and it is long, hard, labour-intensive work – at the mercy of the elements. In the early days I did have local folks come and cut/bale hay (you can see the grass being tractor-mown in one of my home-page photos – around the time that I was becoming aware of the time and effort involved in making hay by hand!) If I had to be self-sufficient in terms of winter livestock feed I would be faced with a number of choices, including much smaller livestock numbers, use of foggage, traditional annual patterns of livestock husbandry (where large numbers of livestock go for meat before each winter), and growing/preserving large amounts of livestock fodder, including hay.
A lot of these issues will be explored in blog postings as I develop this website – as well as my holding. Happy browsing!