Ep 107. Iain Tolhurst on Stockfree Vegetable Production in the UK

What does it take to thrive as an organic, stockfree, community-interest farm?

Quite a lot, but as our guest today shows, it’s a climbable mountain. Joining us today is Iain Tolhurst of Tolhurst Organic located in south Oxfordshire, UK. Tolhurst Organic, one of the longest running organic vegetable farms in England, supplies in-season organic vegetables and fruit delivered to local neighborhoods weekly, via a neighborhood rep scenario. Almost all vegetables are harvested the day of delivery to guarantee freshness. They pride themselves on being able to grow as many of the vegetables as possible and produce at least 85% of the value on their own land. They believe that food should be as local as possible, and focus on buying from other organic farms in the area. We discuss the inner workings and methods of Iain’s uniquely thriving farming operation in this episode, so it’s certainly not one to miss!

In This Episode:

How Tolhurst Organic began and what it’s all about 2:00

What a community interest company is about 4:33

What Iain was doing before embarking on his farming journey 7:09

What a typical week looks like on Iain’s farm 8:45

How and why Tolhurst Organic goes stockfree 13:53

How they go about managing nitrogen 21:42

What Iain does with ramiel wood 25:00

How Tolhurst Organic reduces their carbon footprint so effectively 39:45

How Iain developed the on-farm store for Tolhurst Organic 48:52

The biggest mistakes Iain sees newer farmers making 56:50

How they manage strawberries on the farm 1.00:01

What bit of encouragement Iain would give to himself as a new farmer 1.01:14

Iain’s favorite farming tool 1.02:16

Where you can find more about Iain and Tolhurst Organic 1.06:28

About the Guest

Iain Tolhurst has been at the forefront of the UK organic farming movement for over 40 years. His 8 ha farm has won many awards, the most recent being “Soil farmer of the year”. His most recent book “Back to the Land,” a chronological compilation of many of the articles and papers that he has written during his long career, gives a fascinating account of the way his farm and business has developed with much emphasis on soil management. His earlier work, “Growing Green” co-written with Jenny Hall, has become a text book for many especially the newly emerging young people keen to get into Stockfree organic food production.

For many decades he has been delivering inspirational speeches and presentations on the farm’s organic and sustainable methods of food production. His wide knowledge and experience has made him in much demand both nationally and increasingly internationally delivering presentations and educational seminars.

The farm is a model of sustainability and produces a wide range of produce for the local community. Visitors from all over the world are able to see for themselves the various components of the Stockfree organic farm, from the green manures and diverse rotations to the woodchip composts and integration of agroforestry to the vegetable system. Iain has been able to maintain a viable and sustainable business on land which is not considered suitable for vegetable production. The integration of crops and biodiversity makes for a fascinating and durable agricultural system. He has been heard to say “The primary product of this farm is the culture of biodiversity, food production is the by-product of that.”

Resources and mentions

Local Line – https://site.localline.ca/learn/free-tools

Website – https://www.tolhurstorganic.co.uk/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/TolhurstOrganic

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/linsvegshed/

And if you want to keep the conversation going, join us in our Facebook Group to connect with us and other farmers looking to grow their business!

We also have six free eguides to help you be more effective on your farm (Winter Growing, Pastured Poultry, Washing Shed Efficiency, Profitable Farmers Toolkit, what to look for in a farm property, etc), which you can download here.