Village Farm is in Devon under reconstruction. It’s soil which has been exhausted by repeated intensive arable production undergoing a dramatic makeover with holistic mob grazing techniques and wild seed planting under the direction of Rebecca Hosking, a lady with extraordinary passion for what she Is doing.
Village Farm is set amongst the hilly slopes above the Salcombe-Kingsbridge estuary. To see the state to which its soil had been reduced by factory farming could only be described shocking. . When I visited a programme of restoration was underway but Rebecca was able to show me a few places which hadn’t been touched yet. It was just stones, you wondered who anything had ever grown there.
The whole farm though will eventually be subject to Rebecca’s ambitious programme to restore fertility. Key is ‘holistic planned grazing’ where livestock are moved daily from one small pocket of pasture to another. The animals not only eat the vegetation – and obviously eject organic manure at the other end – but being on fresh pasture each day, they also trample much of the vegetation directly into the ground.
For Rebecca livestock currently means a mixed herd of sheep. Another ‘little’ ambition is to to breed a sheep to match the now-extinct traditional sheep of Devon. So…if an odd sheep comes for sale which fits the bill, its snapped up! The result is 300 strong flock made up of the most eclectic mix of small sheep you can imagine! And just to confuse poor old brains like mine there are a couple of small pigs with the sheep!
All this whilst practising the highest standards of welfare and stockmanship, and…….turning the farm into a haven for wildlife. This latter point means choosing very select mixtures of seed for sowing the newly re-emerging meadows to give food – and shelter – the a wide range of wildlife. I guess its here that Rebecca’s past life – making wildlife documentaries with the likes of David Attenborough – and the sights and experience it gave comes in mighty useful!
What a wonderfully inspiring experience to spend the day with her and wondering around the farm. Truly awesome – as was the rain, most of the time. But then again, Village Farm is in Devon for heaven’s sake!