For this talk, Planet Shaftesbury welcomed Elaine Spencer-White to our weekly Zoom meeting timeslot. Our thanks to all those who came along, in addition to our regulars. Twenty two of us altogether. Plenty of room for more in future, but it felt like a good gathering.
Elaine presented a brief history of the Countryside Restoration Trust and its attempts to acquire the Bere Marsh Farm property, which has been certified organic since its purchase by a previous owner in 1971. (For more information go to their website at: https://www.countrysiderestorationtrust.com/bere-marsh-farm ) After some apparent setbacks they were able to complete the purchase this year, so there is a considerable amount of careful work ahead before the farm can become fully operational. They hope to be launched in 2023, when the Trust celebrates its 30th anniversary.
The vision is to restore this Victorian farmstead to a small scale mixed organic farm that will be self-supporting through on-site sale of produce, educational activities and the green burial site (which has been in existence there for several years). Produce will be mainly livestock based, but there is an intention to restore the property’s orchards and establish a poly-tunnel for veg. – from which the plan is to make chutneys etc. for sale.
A central tenet of the Trust is that wildlife is essential to good farming. All developments are designed to take place with wildlife welfare standards firmly in mind. The property is already know for its swallows, bats and barn owls, so building restorations will be timed so as not to deter nesting etc. The aim is to facilitate restoration and expansion of biodiversity wherever possible. Volunteer manager Andy Fole (who also joined us for the meeting) is currently monitoring and recording the existing wildlife on the site, in order to develop their understanding of what they have to work with.
In a lively q&a session following the talk, Elaine and Andy answered questions on financial viability, education strategy, relations with neighbouring farmers, workforce and plenty more. Our thanks to them both for their time and interest. If you would like to visit the farm or are interested in volunteering there, go to the website to book and for more details. If you would like to listen to a brief interview with Elaine on the This Is Alfred podcast, go to: https://thisisalfred.com/podcast/the-alfred-daily-10th-november-2020/