New organic demonstration farm producing food from the forest
Organic Centre Wales recently held the first open day at a new demonstration farms which it manages as part of the Farming Connect Organic Development Programme. Peter Bottoms bought the 250 ha Esgair Forest near Machynlleth in 2007 and entered it into organic conversion in 2008. It is managed for an annual timber crop of over 1500 tonnes and is the first organic forest in the UK. The timber is processed in the new sawmill, only very recently finished, for sale into the local construction and timber framing market.
While it is first and foremost a forestry business, Peter's unique approach means that he sees more than wood and trees. He is particularly interested in different ways in which the forest can used to generate an income while trees mature. He is considering woodland pigs and forest gardening, but his initial focus is on table birds.
As descendents of jungle fowl, poultry are right at home in the forest, and range widely among the trees. A small flock of 20 Sasso birds has been established. They arrived on 7 October at the age of 4 weeks, and will be reared for a further 8 weeks or so, housed in an arc built on site from waste timber.
The birds are fed predominantly on purchased pellets, but a key aim of this system is to maximise the amount of feed the birds pick up form the range. To this end he has sown strips of a cover crop containing a mixture of seed bearing plants (quinoa, chicory, kale and millet) and insect attracting plants (birdsfoot trefoil, borage, phacelia and red clover). Similar crops have been established at the Welsh Poultry Centre, and between the two sites, we hope to demonstrate the significant contribution these crops, and the range more generally can make to the bird's diet thus reducing reliance on bought in feed.
Once the birds have been killed and processed, Organic Centre Wales will organise a second open day in early January to look at how new enterprise performed, and of course, a taste test!
Tony Little, who helps to manage the demonstration farm network for Organic Centre Wales said: “Peter's inclusion in the Network marks a new direction for OCW in that it the first time we have worked with a forestry business. I am really pleased to be working with him and Esgair Forest will give us plenty to think about and inspire us.”
Tony Little, email@example.com 01970 621632
Notes for editors
1. Organic Centre Wales is funded by the Welsh Assembly Government to provide information on organic food and farming to producers, food businesses, consumers and others. It is based at Aberystwyth University and run by a partnership consisting of the ADAS, the Organic Research Centre Elm Farm, and the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University.
2. Farming Connect, working closely with its partner organisations, provides one to one support, knowledge, expertise, training and advisory services tailored to the needs of farmers in Wales. Many of these services are fully funded or subsidised and the service is both flexible and accessible. You can register with the Farming Connect Service Centre on 08456 000 813 or contact Farming Connect directly at your nearest WAG Divisional Office. OCW is funded by Farming Connect to deliver the Organic Development Programme.
3. For information on when the Organic Farming Scheme is likely to be open next, contact the organic helpline on 01970 622100.
4. The Organic Conversion Information Service (01970 622100) is funded by WAG to provide information to producers considering conversion – an information pack and up to three free on-farm visits are available.