Farming organically is something we take for granted nowadays, so we imagine everyone understands what we do and why we do it. But what does it actually mean?
Well, to start with, in order to be able to sell our product as organic, the farm must first undergo a 'conversion period'. That means adhering to all the rules of the organic standards (which are written into law) without any of the additional financial benefits.
The conversion period is for two years and during this time, we could not use any artificial fertiliser or pesticides. After this conversion period we were 'certified' and our milk and any other produce could be sold as organic.
That's not the end of the story. Every year, the farm is inspected in depth to make sure we have been sticking to the rules. All of our records are checked and the inspector also looks at the fields and animals. This can all take the best part of a day to carry out.
We aren't done there though. To sell our Proper Good Dairy milk direct under organic certification, we also had to register the dairy as organic. There are strict protocols to make sure that we couldn't buy in non organic milk and fraudulently sell it as organic. There are other, simpler rules which govern some of the cleaning chemicals we can use in the dairy, and which stipulate the fact that everywhere that the milk touches during the process, including the bottles, has been rinsed with clean water containing no chemicals. That's another day of inspection!
It all sounds like rather a lot of work, and it is. But for us the benefits of farming organically extend beyond any (somewhat minimal) commercial benefit.
Organic farming is the original 'regenerative' farming method. Did you know that legumes like clover to fix nitrogen from the air to help the grass grow? This helps us to farm without artificial fertiliser. They are also deep rooting which helps with drought resistance and improves the soil structure. We use farmyard manure as fertiliser which also increases soil organic matter. The absence of pesticides and chemicals means an abundance of wildlife. The picture above shows a bee on our red clover plants. In fact they are attractive to lots of different pollinators who are safe from pesticides on our farm. A few weeks ago, as I walked along the track hundreds of butterflies got up in front of me as I walked along. It was quite magical and almost impossible to capture on video, although I tried!
As farmers we are custodians of the countryside and we are pleased that our little corner of Shropshire is teeming with insects, birds and mammals, all thanks to the farming methods we employ on a day to day basis.