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Maple Farm

Maple Farm Kelsale – certified organic by The Soil Association

Soil Association

Maple Farm Kelsale was certified organic over ten years ago. We hold Soil Association growing and packaging licences, and a farm assurance certificate which relates to crops.

The Soil Association help us to produce organic food and conform with EU regulations. Annually, we receive a very thorough visit from their inspector which takes about a day. It’s all about reviewing our processes and helping us to ensure the very high standards which we as organic farmers set ourselves are maintained and improved.

Though it might not seem the most eco-friendly of terminology, it’s our paper trail which counts.

Our comprehensive records are kept to the highest of standards, mapping exactly where seed has been sourced from, when it was sown and planted, when the resulting produce was harvested, packaged and when / where it was sold.

With regard to our eggs, systems are yet more meticulous with collection, sorting, stamping and packaging dates all logged and points of sale all regularly monitored. We also receive regular inspections from the Egg Marketing Inspector at DEFRA.

As well as studying our paperwork though, there’s an extensive farm visit to check out our everyday farming practices and animal welfare is a top priority.

Conservation

Conservation

Maple Farm Kelsale has been managing conservation for well over 10 years through the Countryside Stewardship scheme.

We have coppiced miles of hedgerow - a traditional management system for Suffolk and replanted many more miles of hedgerows and hedgerow trees. With the greater emphasis on environmental management over agricultural production we have stepped up our stewardship programme. We have planted over 10 miles of wildflower and grass field margins, restored ponds (we have about 32 natural dew ponds in total,)deliberately retained stubbles over the winter months for wild bird feed, planted areas specifically for winter bird feed, restored permanent pastures and much more.

The large areas of flowering vetches and clovers are a haven for different species of threatened bees and other insects. We are host to an encouraging number of bird species which have been victims of modern agriculture. Recent RSPB surveys found good populations of yellowhammers, linnets and several finches. We have breeding pairs of turtle doves, and skylarks. Barn owls patrol our field margins at sunset and marsh harriers are frequently seen quartering the fields. Through our pond management the farm now welcomes ducks and teals. These ponds attract every kind of wildlife, and we are particularly proud that some are homes to great crested newts.

Organic farming

Organic Farming

Over 50% of the British population now claims to consume organic food by choice yet few people really understand what organic farming means. It's not just about no pesticides or nasties.

Organic farming was pioneered before and during the Second World War - mostly in Suffolk by the founder of The Soil Association, Lady Eve Balfour. At its heart lies the simple idea that healthy soil produces healthy plants and therefore healthy animals that eat them. Healthy soil is a living soil containing billions of organisms whose existence and interaction is hardly understood.

Non-organic or conventional farmers rely on the soil to hold the plants up but not much more. Such plants are therefore dependent on artificial inputs. They rely on artificial fertilizers for growth and then artificial chemicals to keep them healthy. There is growing evidence that plants produced in this way contain fewer nutrients than did similar crops grown in the times before modern chemical farming.

Recreating healthy soil does not happen overnight. Our first step is to plant our fields with deep-rooting fertility building plants such as clover. This improves soil structure and, as it is grazed, fertility. This phase encourages the development of large earthworm populations which also improve structure and drainage. The return to the use of smaller machinery means that our soil is not compacted - again preserving soil structure.

After two or three years of conversion time, land can be officially registered as organic but it takes many more years to complete the process effectively. Farming organically means farming in balance with nature, but nature is far from balanced after years of chemical farming. Weed seeds, dormant for decades, miraculously re-emerge to grow in the first organic crop. Over time you get cleverer at keeping the weeds under control but on some fields this can take years.

Organic farming, contrary to what some people say, is a very scientific system. Much of this science is relatively new and the research available is limited - every year millions are spent on chemical research and virtually nothing on organic methods.

Even so there is now much evidence that it is good for the environment and there are plenty of signs that it is often better for you.