Tom-azing: Northdown Orchard Farm Visit with Abel and Cole [AD]

From “News”

A few weeks ago, I had the absolute pleasure of visiting Mike Fischer’s Farm, Northdown Orchard, which spans across 12 acres, in Basingstoke with Abel and Cole[ #AD] I can still picture myself wandering through the fields of cherry tomatoes, the low hanging branches of the orchards and jumping over harvests of the most beautiful pumpkins I have ever seen. “I use wood chips to fertilise” Mike chimes in as he sees me admiring his yield, who has recently swapped from the more traditional horse manure, after realising his crops weren’t growing as big or as healthy as he would have hoped. But why is this? Mike explained that the horses were eating hay that was containing certain pesticides which, when digested (or rather, lack thereof) was leaving behind a considerable and shockingly amount of pesticides behind. Which in turn, was going straight back into the soil (and into our food) when used as a fertiliser; impacting the health and growth of the plants. All in all… It was pretty shit(!)

Mike knew that he had to find a solution to this and set about to find a change. Utilising over 25 years of experience and knowledge he found a natural way of composting (which is also unintentionally vegan) and has finally created the crops he knew he always had the potential to – and the results are second to none. Northdown Orchard have some of the sweetest, plumpest toms I’ve ever sampled. Walking through the farm, listening in awe to Farmer Mike’s tales was inspiring. He had a tale to tell about every plant and crop. And has even created an easy access ‘walkway’ for certain insects, creating a hub of hives collecting and sowing seeds for the next spring.

This got me thinking… I can’t help but wonder just how much pesticides affect plant growth and what they must be doing to us, when ingested. According to a recent studyearlier this month almost 400 pesticides are currently used in conventional farming, whereas only 26 have been approved by organic farming organisations. The report does go on to say that none of the residue levels found in conventional (and organic) food are expected to have any impact on our health but there are still some arguments and loopholes in the regulations surrounding the effect (if any) of mixing chemicals. But if there is a more natural and organic way of doing so – why are more farms not following suit?

When people ask me why I eat Organic, this is the reason why. The Soil Association, the UK’s leading charity in Organic Food and Farming explains it better than I ever can. “Non-organic food production … can pollute water, the environment and make their way into our food chain. Government testing [2017] found pesticide residue in 47% of British food.” They go on to say that “new evidence suggests pesticide use has seen a massive increase in the UK over the last 40 years, with a potential impact on human health, delegates at a Royal Society of Medicine conference have heard [1] this is in sharp contrast to the claim by the pesticide industry that use has halved.” And all the while, while companies like Farmer Mike and the Northdown Orchard are available to purchase by a consumer, I can’t see why you would ever choose something different. Not only is the produce grown in a more sustainable and natural way, but the taste is outstanding. Organic farmers utilise the seasons to produce the best products while they can – “my favourite veg” Mike told us, just before leaving was “the ones that are ready for the first time of the year that week – it’s the ones that are just in season that I like to celebrate”, and I couldn’t agree more.

Now, what to do with my large collection of harvested tomatoes?!

[1] The Royal Society of Medicine conference Pesticides and food: is low dose exposure harmful? was organised by the RSM’s Epidemiology & Public Health Section and took place on Monday, 20 November 2017 at the Royal Society of Medicine.

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