Organic farm is a big success story
THE operation may not be as big as that of the Heinz Corporation, but Glebe Farm at Kings Ripton shares 57 varieties with the US giant. In the case of Glebe Farm, current holder of The Hunts Post Sustainable Development Award, the 57 are the number of dif
THE operation may not be as big as that of the Heinz Corporation, but Glebe Farm at Kings Ripton shares 57 varieties with the US giant.
In the case of Glebe Farm, current holder of The Hunts Post Sustainable Development Award, the 57 are the number of different species of bird that have colonised the property since owner Rebecca Rayner took it organic.
"The environmental benefits are enormous," she told The Hunts Post. "And it's also fascinating to see all the bees on the clover, kingfishers and some very large birds of prey."
But Rebecca, who graduated in agricultural marketing, said the prime motivation for her environmentally-friendly estate was commercial. "All the same, it's not megabucks."
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Last year was her second success in the sustainable development award, and she may be standing on the threshold of rapid expansion. The farm yields around 250 tonnes of grain a year, but only 80 tonnes are currently used to mill flour and bake bread in Kings Ripton. The rest, which is currently sold into the markets, could be put to flour production if one of the major supermarket chains came up with a suitable deal.
Glebe Farm, which produces wheat flour, wheat-free flour and gluten-free flour - a godsend for coeliac disease sufferers - and bread mixes made with them, now has two mills in Kings Ripton and local windmills, though Houghton Mill does not qualify for lack of organic credentials.
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Some grain is bought in from other local growers for blending with the Glebe Farm wheat.
The farm's organic activity started as a sideline but took off. Now grass strips are left at the end of fields, hedgerows and trees have been planted - the very antithesis of a modern tradition East Anglian arable farm - crops are rotated to fix nitrogen and wildlife abounds.
"We would like to have a community wind turbine on the farm, but the cost is still very high, and being close to RAF Wyton is a bit restricting," Rebecca said.
"Our sales are increasing all the time. I don't know whether that was because of winning the award, but we have had some more local food shops come on board since. The awareness has been terrific. Everybody who comes into the house sees the award.
"Sustainability is what we believe in and there's a big wave swinging towards environmental friendliness. Supermarkets are interested, but there no firm orders yet. They are looking to buy more regional produce. Kazakhstan and Ukraine are the usual source for organic grain for Britain, though it's milled and packed in Bishops Stortford."
Rebecca is also looking overseas for new markets. "We sell to a supermarket in Hong Kong, where ex-patriates are demanding a decent loaf. We are in Ireland and also have an order from China.