I come from several generations of Dorset farmers. I graduated in Farm Management from Newcastle University and then worked in practical farming on a wide range of farming systems, including organic and biodynamic and large scale intensive pigs, poultry, arable and dairy. My concern for the environment and animal welfare led me to establish my own organically managed smallholding and from there to the Organic Research Centre (ORC) Elm Farm in 1984. Initially I worked for ORC as the farm manager and then ran the Organic Advisory Service for 15 years.
I established and became Director of the Institute of Organic Training and Advice (IOTA), an independent professional organisation providing information, training and accreditation for organic advisers. Subsequently IOTA was merged with ORC and I returned as a part-time employee. I also work as an independent consultant specialising in organic farm management, sustainability and business. With my partner I run a 50-hectare upland farm using Traditional Herefords and Cluns to manage its ancient pastures.
I believe that organic farming is central to the development of a sustainable food supply. It has a track record of delivering more effectively than any other system in terms of environmental, social and financial sustainability. This is achieved through managing the fundamentals of the farming system – rotation, stock management, use of legumes, management of manures – all of which are essential to ensuring better use of finite resources, reducing pollution, enhancing biodiversity and providing quality food. But we still have a long way to go!