A FARM in Tynedale has grown into one of the biggest organic ventures in Europe
Nafferton Farm, located just off the A69 near Stocksfield, has 160 hectares of land dedicated solely to organic farming.
The 320 hectares farm is spilt into two sections; one for conventional farming and the other for organic farming, and is home to research group Nafferton Ecological Farming Group.
The group, run by Newcastle University, has been running a project, entitled ‘Quality Low Impact Food’, looking at ways to improve the standard of organic produce.
Ongoing experiments have been investigating the benefits of organic farming for diary and crop produce in the industry.
The group has full scope to experiment on the farm and half of the 160 milking cows are being used for organic production.
Results have highlighted the quality of organic farming compared to the methods used in conventional farming.
Professor of Ecological Farming, Carlo Leifert, said: “The milk quality is much better in organic farming.
“The total milk level is not too different but organic levels are slightly lower.”
However, the group admits that it would not be plausible to have organic farming on every farm in the country.
Livestock project manager Gillian Butler said: “The milk quality is much better but there is not enough of it being produced. There would not be enough to feed the country.
“However, I think conventional producers can learn lessons from organic farming and improve the quality of their products.”
Around 20 people are employed at the group to ensure the most accurate results are recorded.
It has also a research facility set up in Greece that looks at improving crop farming, particularly in hot weather.
The group has been using Nafferton for experimental purposes for around eight years, and is grateful for the work it is allowed to do on site.
Prof. Leifert said: “Nafferton Farm has always been an example farm but now it is one for organic farming.
“We are completely dependent on the farm for our research but they do not need us. However, the farmers do implement some of the findings from our experiments.
“We are not a pure organic farming research organization and we need the conventional production for research as well.”
Nafferton Ecological Farming Group held an open day at the farm last Friday.
A mini farmers’ market was set up, selling local organic produce that ranged from meats, milk and even ice cream.
Guests were treated to a tour of the milking parlor and the crop fields to show what work the group carries out.
It also offered farmers in the area a place to congregate and discuss possible research facilities to implement on their land.
In the morning, around 100 schoolchildren from the region were invited to tour the grounds.
Prof. Leifert said: “We are great believers in telling children how farmers work. Kids are not concerned with how difficult it is to produce food.
“In my opinion, the children do not value it enough.”