By John Pitts, 4th generation farmer and Managing Director of The Woodhorn Group
We started our Journey as an Organic farm twenty years ago. It’s been an extraordinary learning curve with many challenges, some anticipated, some not, as a result of no longer having access to pesticides and artificial fertilisers. I certainly fell back in love with farming as a result of getting closer to nature. The whole farm has become its own nature reserve and the ever increasing population of everything good – from insects and wildflowers to birds and worms – has been a joy.
None of this would have been possible without the driving force behind the organic system – our cows. The dairy herd provides manures that enrich the soil and clover leys that naturally fixes fertility into the soil drawn from the atmosphere whilst comprising an essential component of one of the foundations to a sustainable farming system – balanced crop rotations. Organic farming is simply not possible without animals.
But then none of this would be possible without a great team of people looking after those cows! It’s a unique job in many ways and requires true perseverance and commitment. Anti-social hours (milking at 4.30 am for example) and a tendency to not come home smelling of roses are just two features. The Reeds Farm team of Graham Rowles (Herd Manager), Tracy Acott and Tim Hill will doubtless tell you more!
The culmination of twenty years of organic learning and the commitment shown by this team was recognised at the national Dairy Industry ‘Cream Awards’ last week when we were named UK “Organic Dairy Farm of the Year”.
I accepted this award at a ceremony in Birmingham (see the photo above – the other people are the judges and the master of ceremonies) but I did so very much on behalf of Graham, Tracy and Tim (as well as the rest of the Woodhorn Farm team) who make it happen on the ground.
The judges remarked, in particular, on the ‘attention to detail in everything they do’ and the ‘extremely high standard of animal welfare’. This doesn’t just happen but is the result of a great deal of effort, skill and first class stockmanship. Graham, Tracy and Tim have every reason to be incredibly proud of what is a remarkable achievement and I am extremely proud of them.