A true pioneer, Prince Charles founded one the first businesses for organic products. In 1986 he decided to convert the Duchy Home Farm - part of his Highgrove estate in Gloucestershire – into a completely organic farming system. Back then, consumers were not particularly concerned with the origin of products or the manner in which they were produced.
Meanwhile, the Duchy Home Farm may well be the best-known organic farm in the world, stretching across 700 hectares of the idyllic Cotswold countryside, near the town of Tetbury.
Coming up the driveway to the farm, visitors are greeted by a sign: “Warning: You are now entering a GMO free zone”. With the same ironic allusion one could be “warned” of entering a natural paradise: rare birds, numerous butterfly species, bats, insects, reptiles and mammals have resettled in the area. New hedges have been laid across a length of 16km – woven by hand, several by Prince Charles himself. Besides looking marvellous in the countryside, they provide shelter from the wind and a habitat for beneficial wildlife, which protects the crops and vegetables against pests.
Each field is surrounded by a two-meter wide, colourful strip of wildflowers and herbs, which provide a vast variety of nourishment for bees. This broad diversity can also be found among the farm animals. The Ayrshire dairy herd, counting 180 animals, is the economic backbone of the entire farm. Furthermore, the farm keeps 90 Angus suckler cows with calves, 500 Lleyn sheep and a herd of pigs. Priority is given to native breeds that have become scarce and are thus threatened by extinction. The selection of specific breeds is not based upon their milk or meat production potential, but on how well they are suited to the region’s natural conditions. Ducks, geese, chickens, turkeys, peacocks, dogs and cats bustle around the farm – living alongside the wild rabbits, pheasants, hedgehogs and other mammals.
The quest for sustainability has led to the use of regenerative energy sources, of natural and mostly homeopathic medicine for the animals, the installation of a reed bed sewage system and the use of ecologically safe construction materials.