On a sunny July afternoon, we visited Moonacre, a biodynamic farm situated in the picturesque Somerset countryside.
Who are the seed sowers and growers at Moonacre Farm?
Predominately it’s myself and my daughter Rose, but we have a team of volunteers that come along to lend a helping hand on a Tuesday and Thursday every week. Rose actually left her job in Bristol to join me at Moonacre. She has not only been an immense help on the farm but made our website for us too. We are also very fortunate to have PJ, who is always on hand to fix things and drives the tractor for us. My youngest daughter Lily ensures we’re all well fed and watered!
What does biodynamic farming mean and how does Moonacre embrace biodynamic farming?
Biodynamic farming is when you see the farm as a living organism and where everything is interconnected.
At Moonacre, we’re trying to keep a closed system as much as possible. If it’s livestock for example, we’re trying to hatch our own chicken and breed our own cows. We ultimately ensure that we import as little as possible from the outside world.
We also grow using the biodynamic calendar. There are planetary influences and there are some days that are good for planting and tending to the root crop, and some days that are good for planting and tending flower crops. We have different field sprays and compost preparations that we use on the land depending on the planetary phases. We’re not just growing with the moon, we’re taking other planetary influences into consideration, but it does all come under the heading of a lunar calendar. At the farm, we try and pay attention to these influences but without it becoming a dogma, because that wouldn’t be healthy. Today, we’re harvesting potatoes because it’s a box day, but if we were going to store potatoes, I would want to do this on a root day because it improves the qualitative aspects of the crops.
We also don’t want things to be over tidy. We’re not too concerned about long grass and weeds. At Moonacre, we try to encourage as much nature and wildlife as we possibly can to the farm. For example, there are long bits of grass I leave under the trees because this is where the owl will hunt in the autumn. It’s just a case of being empathetic to the wildlife that we’ve got here. We’re not using any pesticides, herbicides or fungicides.
We also fully believe that if you hold your nerve, nature has got the answers. You need to be led by nature but also know when to respond. Let nature help you and you help her. Observation is paramount.
How do you ensure that you grow produce in a way that enriches the land?
We’re not using any artificial pesticides and we’re using our own biodynamic soil preparations to enrich the soil and its vitality. We grow our own green manures and homemade compost which is currently coming from our own biodynamic cows that we rear here.
In addition to this, we also use Cow horn manure and BD501 which is a horn silica. One is really beneficial for the soil and the other one is really great for pre-harvest. We also use Cow Pat Pit, a tea like substance that you stir up in 15 minutes and put on the land.
In essence, we’re using the biodynamic preparations. We’re being really ‘light touch’ with any cultivation and we’re adding our own homemade composts. Most importantly though, we’re not using any chemicals.
What prompted you to launch your veg boxes?
I think it was lockdown. We’d grown veg when we first started here, but the route to market didn’t really work. So, this time around, we decided to do veg boxes. This means that whatever you’re growing, you can put in that box and if it looks and tastes great, people will come back and get another box. We like to make our veg and flower boxes a real cornucopia of delights. I’ve had people phone me up who have been stuck at home on Zoom calls and receiving one of our boxes has been the highlight of their week. It’s just made the whole process an incredibly joyous one.
What can customers expect to receive in their veg boxes?
Whatever we’ve got growing! We try and grow a really good variety. At the moment, customers can expect seasonal flowers, herbs, a salad bag, broad beans, French beans, turnips, spring onions, garlic, potatoes, courgettes… the list goes on!
What small scale farming ideas would you recommend to those keen to grow produce at home?
I would say, grow what you like to eat. Look after the soil and make your own compost. Anyone can do this, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got a window box or 20 acres of land, just do it! Remember, the best veg you’ll get is that grown by yourself. Give it a go, pick it and eat it!
Collection Only from Durslade Farm Shop every Friday after 9am.
The cut off for placing an order for the same week is Wednesday by 12noon for collection on Friday.