Farm Walk: Courtyard Farm, Norfolk

17 May 2013 16:30 - 17 May 2013 19:30

Peter Melchett,Coutyard Farm,Ringstead,Hunstanton, Norfolk, PE36 5LQ

Courtyard Farm aims to combine profitable farming with providing an environment where native wildlife can thrive, and public access is encouraged. For wildlife, this means building up a healthy, living soil to benefit insects and native plants which, in turn, attracts birds and mammals. With an organic system, it is possible to marry the farm's objectives of providing crops and meat for food without artificial pesticides or fertilisers, while providing an ideal habitat for wildlife. The farm is also an enjoyable, and safe, place to visit. The farm finished converting to organic in 2000, and meets the highest, Soil Association organic standards. Peter Melchett, a director of the farm, is well-known for his environmental campaigning work at Greenpeace in the 1980s and 90s, and is currently Policy Director for the Soil Association, the main UK organic body. Organic farms also employ more people than intensive farms (in Eastern England, for non-organic farms this can mean less than one farm worker per 1000 acres). Courtyard Farm employs 2 full-time staff, and with regular part-time workers this provides the equivalent of three full -time jobs, on 890 acres.

Our herd of Norfolk Red Poll cattle spend the summer months grazing on the wild flower meadows and clover fields at the farm and on the farm's grazing marshes at Holme. In winter they are kept in an airy cattle building where they are fed on silage made from clover, and haylage from the grass and wild flower fields. They have no additional grain and protein feed. Meat from slow-growing, grass-fed cattle has improved flavour, and healthier nutrients and fat.Organic animals stay with their mothers longer than non-organic (whether 'outdoor', 'free-range' or intensive) Our organic animals grow more slowly, eat natural diets, can always move around freely, and live in settled family groups to minimise stress.For most of the year, the cattle can be seen from the public footpaths on the farm.

Wheat, barley, vetch and peas, and red and white clover are the main crops grown in the six-year rotation at Courtyard Farm. The wheat, barley, peas, white clover and vetch are grown for use as seed by other organic farmers, demanding very clean fields and high quality grain. Clover is essential in an organic system for putting nutrients back into the soil without using artificial Nitrogen fertilisers, made from fossil fuels. The energy from sunlight allows clovers (and crops like peas and vetch, also grown at Courtyard) to fix Nitrogen in their roots, which is vital for growing crops. After growing under a wheat crop for one year, the clover remains undisturbed for two more years, to maximise Nitrogen fixing. The clover fields are cut for silage (to feed the cattle in winter) and grazed by young cattle in summer. Manure from the cattle also adds some fertility to the soil, mainly in form of Phosphorus and Potassium, the other two elements vital for growing crops. To find out more about the farm, please visit

Farm Walk focus
Although we do have some beef cattle,most of them will be on a grazing marsh on the coast about 2 miles from the farm and will not be visible. The main focus of the walk will therefore be on growing wheat, barley, peas, vetch and white clover, all of which are being produced for seed. 

Attendance is free but advanced booking is absolutely essential. We will send out directions prior to the walk.

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