'Modern' Farming, with its increased drive for maximum productivity, it's reliance on synthetic chemicals and it's over use of heavy machinery and fossil fuels has caused a huge amount of environmental damage. This damage includes, but is in no way limited to, depleted soils (lack of soil life, nutrients, and indeed actual soil itself), pollution, loss of habitat and biodiversity and decline in species of both flora and fauna. A recent analysis of data (2018) conducted by the United Nations has predicted that, world wide, our soils are only capable of producing for another 60 harvests. It is vital that we change our methods, that we stop practices that lead to soil health deterioration and soil depletion through wind and rain erosion. It is vital that we stop the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and nutrients and move away from our reliance on fossil fuels. All across the world there is a movement toward regeneration, projects are springing up worldwide that look at sustainable farming practices and search for solutions to the problems outlined above, Farm on the Hill is proud to be part of this movement. At Farm on the Hill our focuses include the following:
Research into perennial food crops. Most of our current food crops come from annual plant production. This cultivation of annual plants often involves the ploughing of soils that destroy soil profiles, decrease soil life and lead to erosion by wind and rain. Perennial food crops are crops that stay in the same place for many years, do not need annual replanting and therefore do not involve regular use of detrimental practices such as ploughing. Common perennial food crops include top fruit, eg apples and plums and soft fruit, eg berries as well as crops such as rhubarb and asparagus. Currently much of the UK production of the crops mentioned relies on the use of synthetic pesticides and herbicides, at Farm on the Hill we are researching organic and sustainable methods of growing these perennial crops, as well as trialing many lesser know perennial food crops such as Hablitzia Tamnoides, a perennial spinach, Skirret, a perennial root crop, many unusual berries, mushrooms and a wide range of alternative perennial leaf crops. More crops are being added to our trial plots each year.
Research into the production of sustainable fibres and natural dye plants. Fibre production is one of the biggest areas responsible for environmental damage, but is not often something considered within UK farming. Cotton uses massive amounts of synthetic chemicals and water during its production, man-made fibres such as polyester, being non biodegradable, lead to landfill as well as being a huge contributor to the micro fibres now being found in our water (fibres enter the water through your wash cycles). I have a deep interest in the production of sustainable fibres and will be trialling nettle fibre production from spring of 2018 along with a wide variety of natural dye plants.
Forest Gardening. Forest Gardening is a term coined to describe a multi layered cropping system modelled on nature. Crops are interplanted, and include mixed species that produce at different layers of the canopy in the same way in which a forest would. It is a self sustaining ecosystem that as far as possible, and indeed if designed well, will need no outside input in terms of nutrients. This system makes maximum uses of the space for production whilst providing diversity, habitat and increasing the health of the ecosystem as a whole.
To find out more about any of these practices and our current work within this field just ask us when you visit, we'll be happy to show you around.
Farm on the Hill, Manor House Farm, Prestwood, nr Alton, Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, ST14 5DD