HRH Prince of Wales has long been an advocate of small scale, organic growing. A chance to view one of his farms was one therefore to be worked for – even for one with republican leanings!
In fact so keen was I to take an inclusive approach to the Feeding Body and Soul project that I wrote directly to Charles asking if it would be possible to photograph him on one of his visits to one of his farms. Since I wasn’t asking for anything to be set up specifically for me, I thought there was perhaps half a chance. The response though via his office in Clarence House was ‘very sorry, he’s too busy’. Disappointing – but to be realistic perhaps the inevitable answer.
My opportunity to visit instead came through calling in one morning to say hello to Fred Bonestroo, a Dutch trained grower now working in England and whom I had met at the LWA Farm Hack. I’d got talking to Fred as we walked between demonstrations and he had suggested that I dropping in on him at his place….which, when I read the piece of paper given to me, was Close Farm, one of the components of a certain Duchy Home Farm.
Duchy Home Farm is part of the estate of the Duke of Cornwall, aka Charles, Prince of Wales. In fact its just about next door to Highgrove House, his private residence. His belief in the advantages of organic farming resulted in the decision in 1985 for Duchy Home Farm to be turned into a organic farm – both livestock and crops. This was of course when organic was still a relatively new concept – so a bold move. In subsequently achieving this the Prince of Wales has worked closely with organisations such as Soil Association, Sustainable Food Trust, Garden Organic and Organic Research Centre, whilst Home Farm has been active in education and research by hosting workshops that promote the links between food, farming, health and the environment. Charles is also patron of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, and the livestock side of Home Farm has been active in preserving the breeding pool of traditional British pigs, sheep and cattle.
Fred is the grower at Close Farm, the fruit and vegetable part of Duchy Home Farm. After a chat over a up of tea, Fred generously invited me to look around. Its an extensive affair with a bank of polytunnels supplementing a 2 to 3 acre market garden and I would guess around a further 4 acres of field crops where the likes of main crop potatoes are grown. The market garden is also the location for an extensive collection of traditional and rare apple tress – arranged so as to create crop alleys, albeit seemingly wide-ish alleys at this point of growth in the trees – and the result of the Prince of Wales buying up the collection from the Brogdale Collections and moving it to Home Farm when its continued existence at Brogdale looked threatened by economic pressures. Whilst assisted by some able volunteers, Fred works all this as the sole employed grower
By anybody’s standards Home Farm is an immaculate estate producing some quality produce….a product of the provenance of the operation combined with the work ethic exhibited by Fred. I wasn’t there that long but his commitment and work rate was awesome. Without full official permission to be there, what can be said and photographed is limited, but I was able to make a few pictures which I hope reflect both Fred at work and the general ambiance of the farm. An intriguing morning – and my visits were now ranging from squatter communities to a royal showground!
For more on Duchy Home Farm, see the Duchy of Cornwall website
[Double clicking on any of the images will open up the images up in a slideshow format which you can then run using ‘left’ and ‘right’ buttons. Full screen view can be opened with F11 – at least on my PC it is, actual key needed may vary. To get out of full screen its the same button, not ESC!]