Organic Farming with Jacquie Walby

Hi, I’m Jacquie, a member of the TJK Team. Tabitha and I became friends through a mutual love of nature, the wonderful countryside in which we live, our beloved horses, and a complete belief in organic farming.  So, when Tabitha asked me to help her with her business, it was a no-brainer!

My husband and I have been farming organically for nearly 25 years, and I have never written about it before, but a comment I heard in conversation last week questioning the value of organic has jolted me into talking about why it has been, and remains crucial to all our lives.

Jacquie Walby on her Organic Farm - Tabitha James Kraan

 

Let me tell you about our experience – we came to the farm over 30 years ago, 140 acres of land that had been growing arable crops for many years, conventionally and intensively. One of the first things we noticed was the lack of birds on the farm – a rural area on the edge of the Cotswolds and there were no birds. I remember the shock I felt and a deep sense of unease, because I knew something was wrong.

We set about introducing grass crops because we farmed livestock as well as growing crops and the birds slowly started to appear. However, we knew that they were not there in the numbers or varieties there should be, and we also realised that our land was not productive, however much money and effort we lavished upon it – we now know that what this was telling was that the soil was dead.

After battling for a few years, spending disproportionate amounts of money on chemicals and artificial fertilisers, and still not producing the results we expected, we decided to follow our hearts and our instinct and convert to organic.

So here I am now, 25 years later, looking out at lush green fields, where our flock of Polled Dorset sheep are grazing alongside a plethora of birds. It is now the norm for our fields to be covered in Redwing, Fieldfares, Starlings, Pigeons, Crows, Seagulls, all feeding from the life in our soil. The garden is full of song-birds and in the summer hundreds of swallows spend their days sweeping over the grass, enjoying the millions of insects that are now part of the farm’s eco-system. It is now such a rare thing to see fields covered in birds, that walkers regularly stop and take pictures! The importance of this, is not to paint a picture of some woo-woo rural idyll, it is the fact that these are the signs of nature in balance – biodiversity and the ecosystem have recovered, and are in full operation.

Further evidence is that our sheep are healthy and their lambs fatten on our productive clover leys, without the need for artificial fertilisers, sprays, or man-made feeds. Like James Rebanks, I am a pragmatist and I know that organic farming systems alone cannot feed the world. However, we do know that conventional systems of growing crops are poisoning our world, destroying biodiversity - but we have proven that organic farming can be more productive than the systems that have devastated soils and require billions of tonnes of man-made chemicals to grow crops.

Different, more environmentally-friendly practices are being developed but reversing the damage takes time, so we need organic farmers to continue to demonstrate that their methods and practices play a crucial role in increasing bio-diversity and making our soils productive again. In other words organic needs to remain the gold standard to show agri-business how to work with nature, not against it.

So that is why organic is important ……

Oh, and also because if you use organic products you can be certain that you are not putting the chemicals into your body that have and still are, laying waste to our land and eco-systems, and that you are doing your bit to save our wonderful planet.

- Jacquie Walby, General Manager at Tabitha James Kraan

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