Stoke Newington Farmers' Market launches campaign to save local organic farm
By growcomm | Monday, February 25, 2013, 12:36
Hackney-based social enterprise Growing Communities has launched a campaign to save one of the small organic farms they've been working with for ten years from going out of business. Stocks Farm, run by brothers Chris and Iain Learmonth, is a small organic livestock and apple farm in Wiston, Essex, and sells meat at the award-winning Stoke Newington Farmers' Market on Stoke Newington Road. High feed and fuel prices combined with a poor apple harvest last year mean that Chris and Iain are facing the prospect having to give up farming in the next few months unless they can increase sales.
Pigs at Stocks Farm
"This campaign isn't just about saving one family farm but it's also about the future of farming and food production in the UK. Do we really want meat production to be done only on an industrial scale – with the hazards that brings – and for farming just to be the preserve of giant corporations, millionaires and ex-pop stars?" said Kerry Rankine, Growing Communities' assistant director. "Stocks Farm is the epitome of a small family farm, where animals are reared and meat is produced in a sustainable way – but last year was very difficult and increasing feed prices mean they are really struggling. So people who want meat they can trust and want to support small family farms need to come to the market and buy from Stocks."
We all know we need to eat less meat but for those of us who do choose to eat it, it's even more important that it comes from farmers that are farming in a sustainable way. Stocks Farm has been called "everything a typical industrial farm is not."* Chris and Iain's farm in North Essex is a very small farm indeed by UK livestock farming standards. But for Chris and Iain, small is both beautiful and more sustainable. The animals graze outside all year round – the sheep and beef cattle are grass fed. Iain prepares all the sausages and bacon himself using nothing but natural ingredients. Last year he built a smoker so he can make his own smoked meats and bacon on the farm.
"We've cut all the costs we can and we now have to put our prices up as we weren't even covering our costs and we can't survive like that for much longer," said Chris Learmonth, one of the Stocks Farm brothers. "We just want to carry on farming in the small-scale way we've been doing – but as tenant farmers with no money backing us, we need to be able to support ourselves and our families. People in Hackney helped us get started; now we need them to help save our farm."
* Will Anderson. Homes for a changing climate.2009
Stoke Newington Farmers' Market is open every Saturday 10am to 2.30pm, Stoke Newington High Street, London N16 7UY
Chris and Iain were at the first market at The Old Fire Station in Stoke Newington in May 2013 and have stuck with it through two moves, first to William Patten School, then to its latest site at St Paul's Church.
For more information about Stocks Farm and the campaign to save them, look at www.growingcommunities.org or call 020 7502 7588