There was some research done a handful of years ago which concluded that organic farmers tended to be educated to a higher level and generally more marketing-aware than their non-organic counterparts.
We wouldn’t like to say one way or the other on such a potentially controversial finding! But what we can say is that getting among the organic farming fraternity from around the UK at a recent event here in Shropshire was really eye-opening and encouraging.
It’s too easy to pigeon-hole organic farming as being old fashioned, when the reality is that it is anything but. Organic farmers are combining traditional methods with research and development, forward-thinking and smart marketing to a knowledgeable customer base.
When it comes to making the best use of nature, these folks are among those at the head of the pack, farming sustainably, investing in renewable energy technologies and, increasingly, in getting the most out of what was once classed as waste, in the form of compost and outputs from anaerobic digesters.
We saw this first-hand when we attended National Organic Cereals 2013 at the start of this month. Supported by the likes of Waitrose, the NFU and Britain’s leading organic bakers, Nicholas & Harris, it’s the biggest annual on-farm event for the organic crowd and is organised by control body, Organic Farmers & Growers (they inspect farms and food manufacturers and certify their products as organic according to the legal regulations), which happens to have its national headquarters just north of Shrewsbury.
The event has been held all over England, but when it made its home at Mark and Liz Lea’s Green Acres Farm, at Kemberton, near Shifnal, we couldn’t resist literally setting out the 7 Energy stall.
This is a farm that shows the way in sustainability, with solar panels in place on the farm buildings, a commercial composting operation which not only ticks the recycling box but provides nutrients for the farm land and environmental stewardship schemes supporting diverse wildlife (to the point that they have built the most
impressive bird box you will ever see out of a former wooden children’s climbing frame!).
It’s no wonder that dozens of school groups visit this business every year to see for themselves organic farming in action.
For our part it was a chance to meet a good cross-section of this very committed farming community. Their day’s activities included presentations on academic research and practical experiences, along with a good couple of hours out in the fields learning about the demonstration crops that had been planted for the event, the composting operation and the environmental initiatives. They are moving forward and constantly evolving and it was a delight to talk renewable energy with so many of them; it’s such a natural fit with what they do and how they do it.
There’s something very appealing about the meeting of natural farming techniques and technology that makes use of the power that’s all around us – and if you want to harness energy, you could do worse than bottle whatever was powering the delegates at National Organic Cereals!