Organic farming in Rushall and Upavon
Today, Nigel and Joe farm the land across Rushall and Upavon as one business. The business covers almost 2000 hectares of land. Half of this is arable land, and the rest is permanent grass, woodland or is military land which the farm rents. The majority of the soil around the farm is a loam over chalk, that drains the water into the clear chalk stream that runs through the farm. Cropping on the farm consists of 3 years of cereals (wheat, barley, oats, triticale, rye or spelt) followed by 3 years of clover crops, which along with the permanent grassland support a flock of some 2000 ewes.
Rushall Organics is based on land that has been farmed by the Wookey family since 1928, when Charles Wookey and his son Percy took up the tenancy of the Upavon farm holding. Percy would go on to buy the nearby Rushall farm holding in 1946, following the Second World War. Percy’s son Barry was the first to bring organic farming to the area, starting the conversion of the Rushall holding to organics in 1970, though the process was not finished until 1985. Barry’s son Nigel initiated the conversion of the Upavon land to organics in the early 90s, completing the switch by the turn of the millennium.
A simplistic definition of organic farming might be ‘farming without chemicals’. Indeed, during the conversion of our own farm we used the term ‘chemical-free’ for all fields converted to the system. But this does not really cover the concept of the sustainability of organic farming, nor does it convey anything of the philosophy behind it, which, as with all things in nature, becomes more complex the more you think about it. In fact, the philosophy behind organic farming concerns nothing less than the complete cycle soil – plant – animal – man.