Last Saturday we visited Eastbrook Farm, near Swindon. This farm is managed by Helen Browing who is also the current director of the Soil Association. It covers more than 1,000 acres and sits astride the Ridgeway, with its magnificent views. We were shown around by Tim Finney who is responsible for marketing the organic meat products that are produced on the farm. He explained that most of their meat is sent to Germany because British meat processors are so difficult to deal with.
First Tim took us to see the pigs as they are the basis of the arable farming system. The pigs 'rotovate' and manure the land after the final crop in the rotation has been harvested. This activity clears weeds and restores soil fertility in time for the following cereal crop.
Saddle-back sow coming to greet participants
We then went to see a group of calves that came into the world so that their mothers can provide milk. The lives of these calves are extended to eight months, during which time they enjoy an outdoor life, before being slaughtered and sold as veal. Some of these calves are suckled by cows that are unable to provide milk for the farm's dairy. They all seemed very attached to their 'foster mother', Lesley.
Lesley explained that she uses homeopathic remedies, rather than conventional antibiotics and other drugs, for all the calves ailments.
The herd of Fresian dairy cows are grass-fed according to organic standards. Tim pointed out that as a result of pressure from supermarkets and consumers, a litre of milk now costs less than a litre of bottled water.
We had lunch at The Royal Oak, which is an integral part of the farm as it provides a local outlet for its produce. I must say that the veal was delicious! We were all impressed by the fact that the pub's vegetables are provided by the local community, from their gardens and allotments. Is this something that could be replicated here in Marlborough?
It was clear that the highest animal welfare standards are practised at Eastbrook and we are looking forward to seeing some of their products on sale at Marlborough Communities' Market.
Photos by Michelle Luck.