Charley and Alex’s Grand Day Out: Shillingford Organics
The Features Editors go organic…
For the rather long overdue Part Two of our Grand Day Out feature (deadlines nearly ate me alive)…Charley and I cracked on our wellies and headed into Exeter’s rural surroundings, to the little town of Shillingford Abbot to investigate Shillingford Organics.
Shillington Organics is a small company aimed at supplying Exeter and the Teign valley with Fresh Organic Vegetables. And all this rural idyll- only 3 miles from the hustle and bustle of central Exeter!
We were kindly taken on a tour around the farm by Martin Godfrey, who has been working as a grower at Shillingford since 2005. School groups and visitors are encouraged to sign up to the educational farm trails which make learning outside the classroom fun. It was amazing to see the differences between organic and conventional farming methods.
Organic farms choose not to use synthetic pesticides and fertilisers, and so have a system of biological control where what we may initially have termed creepy crawlies and bugs such as ladybugs and toads, are often used to keep pests at bay.
It’s all too easy these days being a student to forget that fresh vegetables are actually needed to maintain a healthy diet and tinned tomatoes and vegetable stir fry packs do not count. Dinners made up of oven fried chips, breaded chicken and baked beans should be a thing of the past – organic health food is the way forward. This is where Shillingford comes in…
Organic food is better in five main ways:
1) It doesn’t contain chemical toxins.
2) It has higher nutrient levels, more vitamins etc.
3) It’s good for the planet (the creepy crawlies keeping our soil full of nutrients aren’t wiped out by pesticides).
4) It’s not genetically modified.
5) No irradiation is used (this can sometimes leave carcinogenic compounds in the food we eat, increasing the risk of cancer).
Throughout our tour it was great to see how passionate everyone who worked on the farm was, with around 15 full time staff, each member had an equally vital role in the day to day running of the farm.
Shillingford is also involved in other projects…
Getting out to the supermarket to find reasonably priced veg for the week can sometimes prove a chore. Shillingford understands this and has been running an extremely successful vegetable box scheme for many years now. There are a range of box sizes available starting at just £7.75, each will contain a variety of in-season vegetables…often picked fresh that day.
For those eco-warriors among you, Shillingford uses returnable plastic boxes and minimises the use of plastic wrapping, using biodegradable paper bags where possible. After you’ve finished with the vegetables you’ve just got to return the box to a collection point in Exeter for refilling.
The vegetable boxes contain a variety of vegetables you’d rarely see in the supermarket including curly kale and white sprouting broccoli – a great alternative to the boring iceberg lettuce and tasteless carrots found in Morrisons/Tesco. These boxes are a great way to tickle your tastebuds while getting your five a day and trying new things!
Standing for Working Weekends on Organic Farms, WWOOF was a project set up in 1971, where help on the farm is given In exchange for food and accommodation. Shillingford joined the WWOOF scheme in 2010, giving WWOOFers use of the kitchen facilities, organic vegetables, a compost toilet & shower room, access to the internet, wonderful organic vegetables, organic bread, organic meat, a picnic area and much more.
WWOOFing is also possible worldwide, with some farms in France and Spain offering festival tickets on top of food and accommodation for help on the farm. With four months in the summer, this could be a good way to relieve some of that boredom while having a great time and meeting new people from all walks of life.
If that sounds too much like hard work, Shillingford are running volunteer days from the 5th of May and every Tuesday throughout the summer. With lunch provided it’s a good way to learn about the day to day running of a farm on a commercial scale…and most importantly, get your hands dirty.
Setup as Exeter’s first community food store, The Real Food Store offers good, fresh food and drink from sustainable sources at an honest price.
Shillingford supplies this store on a daily basis with a selection of organic vegetables and free range eggs. So if you do not want to buy an entire box of vegetables at least pop in and taste the difference in organic food. Charley and I recommend the carrots in particular!
To learn more about organic farming and what Shillingford Organics are trying to achieve, check them out at: www.shillingfordorganics.co.uk