My husband Chris and I run Peelham Farm with our son Angus in the Scottish Borders. Our business partner Amanda, though retired, is still very active in the food processing side of the business. We look after a mixture of cows, sheep and pigs and grow organic arable crops which are used to supplement the feed for our free-range pigs. Before farming, I worked as an ecologist and Chris and I felt strongly when we took over the farm organic principles were the best way to ensure we got a fantastic product, whilst sustaining, rather than damaging the natural environment. Peelham was certified organic by the Soil Association in 2006, and since then we haven’t looked back.
The main reason for farming organically is the fact that we don’t have to use processed petrochemicals on our land; we nurture the soil and landscape and the rest falls in to place. Whist after tilling and sowing we have no passes over our arable crops, neighboring farms may have to spray crops with a range of pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers up to thirteen times over one crop cycle, all of which are derived from petrochemicals, and leave the soil in a poorer condition.
Farming organically presents exciting challenges and there are no short-cuts. For us is it is real farming. A few years ago we had an infestation of leatherjackets (crane fly larvae) which was beginning to decimate our barley crop. While we could do nothing about this immediately, with time nature came to our aid and without us having to use a drop of insecticide. We waited and watched and eventually the crows came down and ate them all. The following year, the leatherjackets were gone.
Organic farming ensures we also produce a fantastic quality of meat. Since our grass has a naturally lower nitrogen level than a conventionally fertilised crop, the grass grows more slowly and with higher nutrient density for the beef and sheep which graze it. In our experience, this slower growth ensures a greater depth of meat flavor, as well as a longer, more natural life. Our beef and lamb is entirely grass reared and fattened. The Soil Association organic logo gives an assurance from us the meat our customers buy has been raised with the highest standards of animal and environmental welfare.
There is a great community of organic producers in Scotland connected by the logo. We buy wonderful organic eggs and chicken each week from Grierson’s farm, and all our organic vegetables from the farmers’ markets from a range of excellent suppliers. On the way home I’ll stop into Breadshare at Portobello for fantastic organic bread for the family. I’m always happy to recommend suppliers to customers, and now that there is the new Soil Association ‘Organic Served Here’ catering mark, I can recommend places to eat out too. It’s really helping to complete the chain, from farm to fork.