Friday, 03 December 2021

Organic farmer praised

AN organic farmer from Whitchurch has again been praised by an environmental activist.

Writer and journalist George Monbiot recently returned to Tolhurst Organic, on the Hardwick Estate, to appear in a short promotional video filmed by the Vegan Organic Network.

He was last at the farm in 2019, when he interviewed owner Iain Tolhurst for a Channel 4 documentary called Apocalypse Cow about the environmental damage caused by raising livestock.

Mr Monbiot was given a tour of the site while Mr Tolhurst explained his methods.

He follows “stock-free” principles, meaning he uses neither manure nor artificial fertiliser, and he keeps his stony land fertile by allowing weeds with long roots to grow so they pull nutrients up from deep within the soil. The plants are then cut up and scattered on the land, making it easier for produce to grow.

Mr Tolhurst keeps pests at bay by supporting populations of insects, such as ladybirds and butterflies, which eat smaller bugs that can destroy crops.

Mr Monbiot, who is a vegan, told viewers: “I’ve been following what Tolly has been doing here for about a year now and I’m really interested because I think he’s on to something really important.

“That is getting away from livestock and artificial fertilisers and allowing the soil, which is a highly complex system, to do what it does best — constantly repairing itself and building these amazingly complex relationships between plants and fungi, bacteria and animals.

“This basically means the soil is healthy and can continue to support crops indefinitely.”

The video was filmed by two teenagers who also visited the farm last year and were equally impressed.

It was released in support of the Farming for the Future initiative, which argues that agriculture must move away from animal products to protect the planet in the long run.

Mr Tolhurst and Mr Monbiot have corresponded for some years and the writer plans to dedicate a chapter of his latest book to the farm and its practices.

Mr Tolhurst, 68, said: “George has known about us for quite some time as we’re pretty well-known in our field and he’s absolutely besotted with everything we’re doing.

“His book is coming out fairly soon and there’ll be a whole chapter on how I manage the farm, in particular the soil.

“George is a regular visitor now and is always very welcome — he’s easy to get on with, incredibly intelligent and doesn’t mince his words on the subjects he cares about.

“He is an amateur entomologist and loves the fact that we have an enormous range of insects, which may not interest the layperson but it’s great for biodiversity.

“George believes that a meat-free diet is vital to preserve what’s left of the planet and we’re very keen to promote the partnership because this is a very important issue.”

Mr Tolhurst founded the farm more than 30 years ago and runs it as a community interest company with his wife Tamara and daughters Eugena and Rose.

To see the film, visit

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