A couple of return visits in quick succession saw Swillington Organics starting to be swathed in the green of summer as late spring brought new warmth and life.
Jo Cartwright has been farming at Swillington Organic Farm on the outskirts of Leeds for well nigh on thirty years. For most of that time, as now, the farm has been home to a wide range of animals all of which are treated with care and compassion. This is a labour of love as much as a business.
The one hundred and sixty acres of the farm is part of the historic Swillington Park Estate and the farm does feel like a large rambling and estate with its wide variety of habitats. Its a mixed farm with livestock activities currently focused around rare breed pigs and native breed cattle and sheep as well as free range organic poultry for both table and eggs – and the odd Christmas turkey! Jo converted to organic farming in 2001 and has been fully certified as organic since then. To reduce food miles and, just as importantly to Jo, to reduce stress on the animals and provide as dignified despatch as is possible, Jo only uses a small local slaughterhouse. She has a butchery and poultry slaughter facilities on the farm.
The vegetable side of the farm is located in the two acre Georgian walled garden of the original estate – with the addition of a poly tunnel or two. As with the livestock, the garden is fully organic and visitors are warmly welcome, particularly when they want to do a spot of weeding!
Swillington is not only practising sound sustainable and ethical farming, but also feels like a proper farm. There’s real mud about in which the pigs roll, there’s hens and duck’s scratching away in virtually every corner, and there are the remnants of various operations of old rusting away with everyone too busy to worry. In many ways it’s a wonderfully glorious muddle – a proper farm! At the same time, Swillington is also part of the Higher Level Countryside Stewardship Scheme which helps promote and support the wide variety of wildlife on the farm and Jo has specifically encouraged wildlife to the farm with an ongoing programme of tree and hedge planting, coppicing and reed bed management. It makes an almost magical mix – farm animals, wild life, vegetables and people, all close to the earth……..yet only 5 miles to the south east of Leeds city centre.
For a challenging and deeply thought through piece In Defence on Eating Meat, see Alex Heffron’s guest blog
[Double clicking on any of the images below will open up that image up in a slideshow format. You can then run the slide show using ‘left’ and ‘right’ buttons. Personally I prefer to go also to full screen having opened the slide show – F11 on my PC, don’t forget to get out of full screen is the same button , not ESC]