Interview with Higher Hacknell Organic Farm, Devon


Tim and Jo Budden came to Higher Hacknell farm in Umberleigh, Devon in 1985 with a determination to farm, working with nature using a traditional system to produce sustainable food in a self-sufficient way where everything they grow is used, recycled and put back into the land.

Three years later they started farming organically, producing vegetables from the garden, cider from the orchard and beef and lamb from local breeds reared on their farm. Amongst the first pioneers of organic meat – winning the Loraine Award for Conservation and Organic Husbandry in 1986 – the enterprising couple were the first to come up with the idea of the ‘Meat Box’.

What started out as producing food to feed their family has grown into a thriving business that now delivers produce to homes nationwide and has achieved the coveted 3 stars in the Great Taste Producers awards, as well as gold Taste of the West and Best Organic Meat at the Organic BOOM Awards 2017.

“Organic standards embrace all aspects of the farming system, most especially animal welfare, wildlife conservation and food safety,” says Jo. “It’s a system that offers many common-sense answers to the problems facing agriculture, the food industry and our environment. We believe as strongly now, as we did back then, that for our future health and wellbeing, it is the way forward.”

About Higher Hacknell

Higher Hacknell, nestling in a secluded part of North Devon between Dartmoor and Exmoor is a true mixed farm with cattle, sheep, crops and a cider orchard where chickens peck and wander beneath the trees. The 350 acres are farmed in a traditional way, using rotational methods to prevent pests and disease and provide a clean, healthy grazing system which avoids the use of drugs and antibiotics.

The farm is mostly grassland, a combination of permanent pasture, where native grasses and wild plants make it a valuable resource for wildlife, and lush clover-rich leys, ideal for the rearing of cattle and sheep. On the better land, the Buddens grow barley and peas to feed the animals, so they don’t rely on imported protein, such as soya, which has to be grown abroad and transported long distances, with a high carbon footprint. The straw provides comfortable bedding and is returned to the land in the form of farmyard manure.

Wildlife thrives at Higher Hacknell, with numerous hedgerows providing ‘corridors’ around the farm, from the five acres of ponds and woodland to the hay meadows. These are a refuge for rare birds like snipe and skylarks and is somewhere for wildflowers to flourish in the spring and summer. The cider apple orchard provides more than apples and cider, as it supports numerous birds, bees and chickens, as well as providing home grown vegetables- the original permaculture system.

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