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Living off the land at Hardwick
By Linda Serck
Organic farming pioneer Sir Julian Rose is offering up acres of his land on the Hardwick Estate for people to grow fruit and vegetables.
Sir Julian Rose
Sir Julian Rose is setting aside acres of his land on the Hardwick Estate for locals to grow their own allotment-style fruit and vegetables.
The pioneering landowner says he recognises the increased interest in home-grown produce and plans to offer up two or more acres in Goring Heath.
"I thought this is the right moment to offer some land to people who are hungry to get their hands in the soil," he says.
The scheme is planned for spring.
An organic farming pioneer
Sir Julian began organic farming in 1975, when he was only one of seven in England to do so.
The 63-year-old ran a local unpasteurised organic milk round and, while he no longer runs the farm on his estate, the produce grown is still sold locally through box schemes and farmers' markets.
He welcomes the increased interest of other people turning their hand to growing their own, and says his scheme is to meet a growing demand for allotments.
"What I've discovered from research is that for every ten people looking for a plot of land there's only one offering," says Sir Julian.
He adds that home-grown produce bypasses the need to head to the big supermarket chains for produce that may not be fresh or seasonal and which carries a large "food mile footprint".
"Combat that and we also combat global warming issues and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, so by going local we start to get on to the right route," he says.
Grow your own strawberries
Sir Julian hopes that other landowners will follow suit and offer up land at viable rates for use as allotments.
"It's an experiment really," he says, "there are quite a lot of landowners in England who have quite a lot of land and most of it is devoted to intensive agriculture.
"What I'm hoping is that by setting some sort of example as a landowner, other landowners will see that it's not so terrifying."
The idea of a land-share scheme has also been championed by celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
Sir Julian's allocated plot of land is by the River Thames and is currently used as a field for horses, which will be halved to accommodate the allotments.
A rental fee will be charged to cover costs of irrigation, a lock-up shed, legal contracts and perhaps a small parking area.
"It really isn't anything to do with making money," says Sir Julian, "I'm an enthusiast and I like helping people out wherever possible."
Beetroots at an allotment
About Sir Julian Rose
Sir Julian was born on the Hardwick Estate, on the South Oxfordshire/Berkshire border, in 1947 and inherited the estate aged 19 after the sudden death of his older brother in a motor racing accident and then his father two years later.
"I'd never thought about the implications of this responsibility, and I was actually pretty scared by it," says Sir Julian.
The fifth Baronet then came across the Soil Association and was also inspired by a BBC film called The Laws Of The Land, and set about converting the estate to the standards of organic farming.
"I suddenly started realising that we're all part of nature and that nature is not some separate entity which we can do what we like with," says Sir Julian, author of Changing Course For Life, Local Solutions To Global Problems.
"It's a fragile, responsive and very important means for our survival and unless we treat it right we're all going to be in deep trouble very soon."
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last updated: 21/08/2009 at 16:47
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