Rebel Farmer organic farms Ed Kyrke-Smith; photo by Jacqui StampEd Kyrke-Smith, Rebel Farmer
Until six years ago Ed lived in London., and labored first as a bar-tender after which as a tree surgeon. Now he turned into speaking to us searching over three acres of flora and vegetables near the village of Brook, approximately 7½ km east of Ashford. This farm, the Willows, is connected to WWOOF, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.
We had come to peer for ourselves how organic farming is carried out on this a part of Kent, having learned approximately Ed Kyrke-Smith, the Rebel Farmer, organic farms from Kent Food hubs.Soil Health
Organic farming does now not use any non-bio chemical inputs, both for fertilizer or against pests. Ed says:
“I’m now not licensed natural or have any goal of doing so. I’m an ecological Farmer and the use of permaculture design to mimic nature and build soil fitness, additionally known as regenerative agriculture. It goes beyond the simple act of refusing chemical compounds.” Treasure Trove of Organic Manure; picture by using Jacqui Stamp
He is also the usage of a no-dig method. So how has he developed a tilth suitable for the many vegetation and salad plants? The fundamental geology is blue clay in this a part of Kent. On pinnacle of that is the high-quality soil he has constructed up over six years. He had an amazing local treasure trove of tons of old pig muck from Wye College, to which he provides wood chippings and sawdust from his winter jobs as a tree-physician.
A nearby mushroom farm resources the compost from oyster mushrooms, and the farm also has an awesome variety of compost bins in numerous tiers of readiness. All the plant life are properly-mulched, which provides to the soil fitness.
I became sceptical approximately how the no-dig might achieve this a part of Kent, in which bindweed is a chief project to gardeners, pushing its white roots deep into clay soil and capturing out white flowered tendrils everywhere in the place, strangling new flora. Ed claims he simply pulls it up and handiest from time to time has to dig out its roots.Companion planting
All over the plot, various flora are flourishing side by way of facet, as opposed to in segregated beds. This is called associate planting.
Some of this is accidental. Waving his arm over a patch of rudbeckia and marigolds, Ed explained that he had supposed to rotate that patch from vegetation to greens this year, but the flora were determined to flourish again in the same area!
There is also a protracted polytunnel, planted with combined veg and plants, which does now not want a lot watering, as the water appears to waft over clay beneath the brought soil.Edible plants
The vegetation aren’t simply there for the pollinators. Many of them are safe to eat, which includes the nasturtiums and marigolds. Some, just like the purple amaranth, produce suitable for eating seeds.Sprouting Peas in an Old Stable
One of the blessings of WWOOF is that organic farming lovers from remote places come to work at the farm and lend their know-how. One of them, Ece, labored with Ed on a undertaking to domesticate and market sprouting vegetation. So an old strong shed, approximately 3 m2, become repaired, insulated with Celotex, and outfitted with cabinets and lights for the trays of sprouting seeds.Trays of Seedlings; image with the aid of Jacqui Stamp
Ed says this produce yields approximately £four hundred a week for the farm. The distributor arrives with the van that supplies to numerous shops in Kent, such as the meals hubs, Wye Farmers’ Market, Perry Court Farm Shop, and The Goods Shed in Canterbury. In answer to a question approximately energy desires, Ed said it turned into much less than £1 an afternoon for the lighting. He is planning to feature solar panels soon to take it off the grid too. This operation has yielded enough constant income to hire Ece over the iciness.The Tipi and commonplace room tent
A farm so boldly experimental obviously wishes numerous exclusive income streams. The Tipi attracts families on staycations, and it is completely booked for this season. They handiest take households from the equal family, and not blended corporations, which means this operation has been capable of preserve maximum of this season. In addition to the Tipi for drowsing, there may be a large airy poly-tunnel type of tent, ready each as a kitchen with sink and electricity (kettle and microwave), and as a communal sitting region.
But not trying to waste top area and light, there are beds of salad crops and plant life flourishing on every aspect of the seating location!Heritage Wheat; image with the aid of Jacqui StampHeritage Wheat
There is an acre or so of ripening historical past wheat – conventional Kentish varieties ‘Kentish Red’ and ‘Old Kent Hoary’ the bulk is a famous history range called ‘Miller’s preference’. This is a collaboration between Brockwell Bake in London and Wild Bread bakery in Faversham and the organization of farmers, millers and bakers is known as SEGA: South East Grain Alliance.
Rebel Farmer Ed is networking amongst different natural farmers who are trialling heritage wheat, because of this sorts that used to flourish within the British Isles before hybrid wheat became commercialised. He claims that gluten-intolerance has increased with the usage of hybrids, so the experiments of returning to the older types would possibly prove worthwhile.
Modern milling machinery also strips a number of the goodness from the grain, subsequently the market for stone-ground flour for discerning home-bakers. So there may be capacity to hyperlink up with traditional mills, which include Willesborough Windmill, in which volunteers currently mill flour this is offered onsite and in diverse neighborhood outlets. However, our subsequent enquiries at Willesborough have revealed that Ed’s current crop yields are too low to warrant the extra work involved in producing, organic farms along their regular output, flour that may be certified as natural.Heritage Seeds
Not simplest for the wheat, however also for different salad plants cultivated at the Willows, Ed orders seed from specialist providers. He talks with the equal enthusiasm I actually have encountered most of the rare breed farmers who care for animals that belong to breeds that was once the not unusual cattle in exclusive areas of Britain, however have almost died out.
These farmers are the devoted practitioners of bio-variety. For a person who does not have years of educational have a look at of agriculture or bio-chemistry in his profession, Ed is incredibly eager to experiment, to compare exactly what works and what does not. But this isn’t always furnish-funded lab work: that is the livelihood for his own family too. What greater from Wye and Brook?
There is a good deal local sadness that Wye College was abolished, with the homes approximately to be made into residences. But this go to seemed to expose that there may be something about the region that encourages agricultural experimentation. Ed seems to supply a new organization there every yr at the Willows plot.
The maximum encouraging element he said in end is that maybe he may want to produce a monthly column from the Rebel Farmer in Kent Bylines … sure, Ed, yes please …