A Visit To Helen Browning’s Organic Farm

Last week I made a trip to an organic farm. It  was everything and more that a farm should be. Helen Browning OBE, chief exec of the Soil Association has been running Eastbrook Farm for 25 years. I am both amazed and inspired at just how much she has achieved given that when she started out, “organic” as a term was a far cry from any methods being employed in mainstream farming.

Women are still in the minority when it comes to farming, let alone a woman that comes along introducing a new approach to looking after both land and animal welfare. Yet Helen has been enormously successful. Not only has she converted the farm from it’s previous ways of using artificial fertilisers and cutting back hedgerows (thus discouraging wildlife) but the animals are reared using the most impressive and logical traditions.

Cows and calfs are grazing on natural and clover filled grasses packed with nitrogen richness. Pigs are living contentedly with as much space as they could wish for, with lots of shelter from the rain of which there was plenty on my visit. They are fed on a superb diet which they top up by rooting through the pasture land that surrounds this beautiful Wiltshire farm.

Helen’s farm specialises in all things pork. And all things organic. I can honestly say that the way in which the animals are looked after makes you realise why organic meat tastes so much better. The animals have lived a happy life, eating good quality food and enjoying the freedom they need for  rummaging  around in soil or wallowing in a big muddy puddle. They have got it all. Helen’s organic products can be can be found HERE.

I know that  term “organic”  can be associated with expensive, only for those who can afford it and being an excuse to sell muddy vegetables for lots of cash.  But, I think of it is a principle/way of life that I like to follow as much as I can. I will show you (in simple, easy to follow ways) how it can be easy to make changes for the better. They aren’t a set of rigid rules. Just ways of making small changes for the benefit of you, your family and your health.

I am a working mum just trying to find ways of enjoying the benefits of eating a healthy and a varied diet with leanings toward the organic principles. On a limited budget. Just like all of us, making small changes here and there for the better……

Here are some of my ideas about why organic food and farming  are beneficial :-

  • It is a more considerate way of farming.

  • It increases biodiversity, so the wildlife activity increases significantly.

  • The animals are happy and well cared for and welfare standards are high.

  • It is pesticide and chemical free, therefore much better for you.

  • The flavour (in this case of the meat) is remarkably better.

Taste of the pork came into it’s own when I went onto lunch at  Helen’s Michelin recommended pub THE ROYAL OAK. So many delicious ways to eat it. There were a number of dishes to try, which we shared among our group. A perfect way of celebrating this  truly delicious pork.

 

  • Speedy Sausages Toad in the Hole

  • Braised Puy Lentils with Helen Browning’s Hot Dogs

  • Breaded Pork Cheeks with Beetroot, Cornichons, Capers & Garlic

  • Bacon chops with Mash

  • Courgette Spaghetti with Toasted Almonds

  • A Salad of Coleshill Leaves (Where all the pub’s organic fruit & veg come from)

  • We all were treated to a superb range of puddings including Organic Buffalo milk ice cream form Laverstoke Park.

The flavour of the pork is undeniably top class. A world apart in terms of taste . Eating little and often, good meat really is worthwhile . Pork is my favourite meat  and I could happily live by good crackling alone!

The pub, the food and of course the the farm were a joy to see. If there is anything that would persuade you to change your buying habits then this would be the place to do it. Once you have tried Helen’s bacon, sausages or hot dogs there is no going back. They are priced competitively too.

Many thanks to Tim Finney. A generous host. I will be back at some point with my children who absolutely adore pigs. My 8yo now supports the organic farming ideas and was extremely impressed by the Speedy Sausgae Toad in the Hole I went on to make at home.

Bacon muffins were assembled, the best ever hot dogs devoured .As were classic Irish potato (dug from our organic allotment!) cakes  into which I threw in some bacon (but didn’t photo!). I have spotted a tomato salad with bacon vinaigrette which is next on my list. I think food this good deserves a few extra pennies being spent on superb quality meat. I shall endeavour to buy good organic/free range meat and make it go far!

I was kindly invited to visit Helen’s Farm  as part of  the ORGANIC UK CAMPAIGN. All views expressed are my own.

 

Comments

  1. Laura, you are so correct.  Organic meat production is so beneficial, not only are the animals raised in a reasonable way, but the environment benefits as well.
    Since the BSE crisis when my sons were small I have endeavoured to source organic meat, and only use organic free range poultry and eggs.
    Thank you so much for highlighting Helen’s wonderful farm.  I certainly would like to take my daughter there at some stage, I do think it is important that children know where their food comes from.

    • I totally agree and really like to think children in the future will be made aware of where food comes from. I wish it would become part of the national curriculum as it might help kids to think more before buying their junk food meals!

  2. What a fantastic post… I always buy organic meat from my local butcher. It tastes so much better, but also the animals are brought up in  a nice environment. The farm looks great.

    • Thanks Tania, I agree when it comes to flavour organic wins. But also the way the animals are looked after is so commendable, it really makes you think :)

  3. And there are more nutrients in organic food too. Nice post Laura. It is hard to spend more when you’re on a limited budget, but it is sometimes about choices. I know a family with two young children who have a very low income, but they only buy organic (admittedly they also grow some of their own too). They don’t have money for much else, but it’s a choice they have taken.

    • I know it is such a tricky issue. Such a dilemma and hard to discuss and explain without sounding too self righteous. I think buying meat little and often could be an option. After all we simply do not need to eat it very night. Vegetables and pulses as well as carbs are more than satisfying in their own right!

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  1. [...] just any old farm! Laura from How to Cook Good Food, along with some other food bloggers, visited Helen Browning’s Organic Farm. This is an interesting read and it discusses ideas around organic food and farming. Well worth a [...]

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