The Maple Farm Story
Our family have been farming at Kelsale for several generations.
The fields where we grow ancient wheat varieties and rye and spelt are small with high hedges and margins of native grasses and wildflowers; a rich habitat for wildlife. Organic for over 20 years and certified by the Soil Association, our hens roam freely, our meadows are grazed by visiting herds of sheep and cattle, and our market garden produces year-round fruit and vegetables in soils enriched by green manures, composts and compost teas. A hundred or more years ago, Maple Farm Kelsale, like most family farms, would have been producing all the fresh food for the local area. With our flour mill, our freshly collected eggs and our farm store, our aim is to feed our neighbours again.
Maple Farm Kelsale was certified organic over 20 years ago. The farm is inspected annually to ensure organic standards are followed. The inspectors review everything we do from how we source our seeds to our animal welfare and farming practices.
On top of this, we are regularly visited by the Egg Marketing Inspectorate and all our systems are checked from egg collection, to sorting, to date stamping, so that you can be sure our eggs are completely fresh.
When you choose organic, you choose products that have been produced to the highest animal welfare and environmental standards – getting organic certification isn’t easy and when you buy an organic product you know that you are getting what you intended. To read more about the Soil Association standards for hens that are organically-reared so they produce organic eggs, please click on the ‘find out more’ button.
How We Farm
Regenerative organic farming practises and agroforestry
A new old way to grow food
There are four principles to how we farm at Maple Farm Kelsale. We want to grow great organic produce for friends, neighbours and all lovers of good food; we want to create sustainable jobs for all skills for people who prefer to work in the countryside; we also want to farm in hand with nature, and as part of that, leave plenty of space for nature.
Organic farming isn’t just about no pesticides and no other pernicious artificial chemicals. Much of the pioneering work was undertaken in Suffolk by the founder of the Soil Association, Lady Eve Balfour. At its heart is the understanding that healthy soil produces healthy plants and that it follows that whatever eats them, animal and human, will be healthy too. Healthy soil is a living soil containing billions of organisms and there is a growing body of evidence that plants grown in it contain greater numbers of nutrients. The life cycles of healthy living soil also involve the absorption of large quantities of atmospheric carbon. This is the best and most natural form of climate change mitigation.
“We want to bring our soil back to life so it can soak up carbon, rain and also enrich our food.”
Creating Healthy, Fertile Soil
Creating healthy soil doesn’t happen overnight. The first step includes planting fields with a good range of deep-rooting fertility-building plants such as clover. This improves soil structure and, as it is grazed or fertilised by our foraging hens or other livestock, so the earthworm populations develop to further improve structure and drainage. The return to the use of small machinery means that the land isn’t compacted – which again preserves soil structure. Many of our practises, such as shallow or minimal ploughing, are central to regenerative farming methods. Our soils will continue to improve if we rotate our crops according to long and irregular cycles to encourage diversity in the soil life and discourage pests from building up their populations.
Early Pioneers of Agroforestry
We were early pioneers of agroforestry. This involves planting rows of trees within our fields. These trees will one day provide valuable timber and woodland fruits like nuts or apples. Meanwhile they contribute to the maintenance of optimum soil temperatures, moisture and fertility. They store carbon, provide diverse habitats for beneficial insects to support nearby crops, and they give shelter to our hens.
Conservation & Restoration
Our farming in hand with nature includes coppicing miles of hedgerow – a traditional management system for Suffolk and other mixed farming regions. We have replanted many more miles of hedgerows and hedgerow trees. We have created over ten miles of wildflower and grass field margins, restored ponds (we have 32 natural dew ponds in total), we retain stubbles over the winter months for wild bird habitats and plant areas specifically for winter bird feed. We have restored permanent pastures and left wild many spaces where life can thrive undisturbed.
Wildlife on the Farm
The fields of flowering vetches and clovers are a haven for different species of threatened bees and other pollinating insects. We are host to bird species which have been victims of modern agricultural methods. We see yellowhammers, along with large flocks of mixed finches. At times, turtle doves, nightingales, swifts and skylarks can be found on the farmlands. Barn owls patrol our field margins at sunset and marsh harriers are frequently seen quartering the fields. Our ponds welcome wildfowl, while on and beneath the water we find great crested newts, grass snakes, dragon and damsel flies.
Most farmers care greatly for the welfare of their livestock and organic farmers are no different. We believe that our animals will stay healthier on soils which are in the best condition and have not been touched by artificial chemicals. If our animals do become ill however, we will resort to the best of modern veterinary medicine which may include certain natural remedies alongside antibiotics and other such treatments. Organic standards often require that the products from animals which have been treated with certain medicines remain outside the human food chain for longer than would be the case in conventional farming but they would never encourage farmers to compromise the health and welfare of their animals.
Get In Touch
Maple Farm Kelsale, Saxmundham, Suffolk IP17 2PL