Cavendish farmer calls for shift towards organic practices to help achieve greater food sovereignty
The path to greater food sovereignty is having more small-scale organic growers, rather than large-scale commercial agriculture, according to a first-generation Suffolk farmer.
Cavendish-based fruit and vegetable producer Greg Harrison has stressed the importance of cutting down food miles and shifting to more sustainable practices, after reporting positive feedback to his first 18 months in operation.
Since becoming a tenant at the Suffolk County Council-owned Ark Farm in October 2020, Mr Harrison has joined three Suffolk farmers’ markets and launched a fruit-and-veg box delivery scheme, Sunshine and Green, in September.
Having started out in farming in 2013, after leaving a career in sailing, he explained he had plied his trade in both commercial and organic farms, and was left in no doubt as to which method was the way forward.
“I began on a dairy farm in Kent and I realised conventional farming was not for me,” Mr Harrison told SuffolkNews. “I don’t think it’s sustainable.
“When they spray chemicals across a field, you think, what side of history are they going to be on?
“To put it simply, organic feeds the soil, whereas commercial feeds the plants which, in the long-term, means the soil dies.
“I’m not a hippy. I’m a practical person and I think best practice is key. In the long run, organic will be best practice.
“Being organic ticks a lot of boxes environmentally, and it’s about having space for wildlife and food.
“To me, that’s the long-term approach. I ask myself, can I do this for the rest of my life? Can my children do this for the rest of their lives? The answer, so far, is yes.
“Food sovereignty is something we’re becoming more aware of. The more food we produce, the more secure we are.
“Let’s get more small vegetable growers throughout the country. Small to medium sized growers are very important, because we can deliver food that’s very fresh and has very low mileage.”
Mr Harrison, who grew up in Wickhambrook and attended school in Newmarket, currently farms four acres of fruit trees and crops in Cavendish, after rejuvenating the land from a dilapidated state.
He said he is now the only organic fruit and veg grower in west Suffolk, and sources all of his production inputs and compost locally.
The intention, he emphasised, is to increase his support team and occupy a further 10 to 20 acres in the coming years, but he did not want to expand beyond this point.
Instead, he suggested that the best way to expand the organic model is to get lots of entry-level farmers on board, by utilising more council-owned land to grow produce on small plots all around Suffolk.
Mr Harrison stated this would also help people create a greater connection to their food – a point he said had been regularly raised by customers at farmers’ markets.
“The wider benefit is people know where the food is from, which counts for a lot at the moment,” he said. “A lot of people at farmers’ markets are asking about where food is from.
“The other point is, with larger-scale conventional farms, they produce a fantastic volume of food, but it’s factory-style work.
“I have a drawer full of CVs from local people. I think it’s because they know organic farming is not like that. They have a direct link and they know people who buy this produce.
“My long-term goal is to expand this model. If I can bring in an apprentice, train them up and then ask the council to give them a small plot of land elsewhere in Suffolk, I think that’s the way forward.
“We bring the food miles down and we bring a local connection to the food. That, to me, is food sovereignty.”
For more information about the Sunshine and Green delivery service, click here.