Farming for the future
07-03-2011 | Combining a healthy appetite for exceptional food, an actively engaged community of customers and a total commitment to a sustainable approach, it’s no surprise that Peelham Farm has been heralded as a model for the future of farming.
Sustainable self reliance
With a driving philosophy of ‘sustainable self-reliance’, Peelham Farm in Berwickshire is a model example of an organic farm. Since the early 1990s the farm has been run by husband and wife team Denise and Chris Walton with partner Amanda Cayley, who are as passionate about producing exceptional food as they are committed to sustainable farming. Their inspired and innovative approach was acknowledged in 2009 when Pelham won the Future Farmer award, which recognises exceptional achievement in sustainable farming in Scotland.
The mixed farm rears pigs, cattle and sheep and also produces all the animals’ feed on the farm. Its wind-powered, onsite butchery processes a large proportion of its own meat, supplying the public, hotels and some of the UK’s finest restaurants including the Witchery in Edinburgh, Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles and Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen in London.
“Over the last few years, our whole ethos has focused on producing meat for direct sale to consumers,” says Chris Walton, the farm’s managing partner. “Part of our approach is to bring people to the farm to engage with them. We bring chefs, hoteliers and the public and show them how we farm.”
The farm’s ‘own a Tamworth’ scheme demonstrates just how hands-on Pelham’s field to fork experience is. After acquiring one of the pigs as a 10-week old, owners are invited down to the farm for three weekends over a year, when they can learn about how the pigs are farmed, help with the processing and take the finished produce home to enjoy it for dinner.
“It brings together a really interesting and diverse bunch of people from across the country. They’ve all got a common interest in food, sustainable farming and of course the pigs,” says Chris.
Peelham Farm started banking with Triodos in 2009, borrowing a significant sum to refinance the farm’s existing loan and support the business’ growth. Chris explains that the crisis of confidence in the financial system was a catalyst for the move.
“The main banks have been totally irresponsible with people’s money. With the current banking situation we were keen to engage with a bank that, like us, is investing ethically and in sustainable operations,” says Chris. “The personal relationship with Triodos was also important, as well as being able to benchmark with the bank’s like-minded customers. To be integrated within a small bank is important to us, rather than to engage in a tick-box arrangement with one of the corporate banks.”
Chris concludes; “As farmers we are stewards of the land have a responsibility to protect it for future generations. Banks should act in the same way – they are stewards of our money with a responsibility of trust to look after it sustainably.”
Rising to 700 feet at the southern edge of the Lammermuir Hills, close to the Berwickshire Coast, Peelham is a mixed farm with a diversity of habitats influenced by its proximity to the sea. The farm is run by Cayley Walton Partners (Amanda Cayley, Chris and Denise Walton), who are committed to animal welfare, environmental renewal and habitat restoration. The farm has been organic since 2005, and includes an on-site butchery and an equestrian centre and cross-country course.