Paul Richards of herbfarmacy in Herefordshire

"We learned as we went along and all believed the organic approach to be the only way forward that respects the planet we live on."

Paul RichardsThe herbfarmacy herb farm is a five acre smallholding in the beautiful Welsh Border country of west Herefordshire, where Paul has been growing medicinal herbs organically since 1983. Cropping was mainly for drying at first and was followed by infused herbal oils, ointments and fresh herbal tinctures. Knowledge of the skin benefits of the herbs used in the range of healing ointments Paul formulated lead naturally into their use in the herbfarmacy range of skincare he developed with his wife Carol and the rest of the team that make the products on the farm. Around six people work for on the farm, depending on the time of year. There is an open farm weekend in July when there is a blaze of floral colours with the bright maroon-pink Echinacea, orange Calendula, lilac Marshmallow and several others.

Can you give a short history of how you got to where you are now, including why and when you went organic?

Having studied Botany and done research in Plant Physiology, I started organic growing back in 1974 on a smallholding in Aberdeenshire along with two others plus many visiting helpers. We learned as we went along and all believed the organic approach to be the only way forward that respects the planet we live on. We majored on vegetables which were sold on a stall in Aberdeen and later in a cooperative shop I helped to start, which was one of the first small coops in Scotland.

We also grew comfrey as a plant and animal feed (we had cattle, poultry and pigs), and I started reading about its many medicinal uses. My growing interest in herbs, combined with practical hands-on experience, sowed the seeds for potentially growing herbs commercially at some point in the future. Having moved back near to my roots on the Welsh Border to be closer to family, I eventually bought a cottage and small parcels of land at Eardisley in 1983 - and immediately registered 'in conversion' with the Soil Association. We gradually built up from one and three-quarters of an acre to nearly five.

All our growing and products have been certified by the Soil Association, which in the case of more complex beauty products has proved to be quite a challenge compared with the simple herbs, oils and balms we started with. 

Organic principles - why do they matter?

Coming from a botanical background with a strong interest in native flora and plant ecology, organic principles follow on naturally as they aim to mimic the balance of nature as closely as possible. No other way will do, and I believe the principles extend to the whole sphere of activity covering the people we work with and the materials and ingredients we buy in and how they are produced.

What does the Soil Association mean to you?

I was first a member of the Soil Association in 1974 when I started in organic growing/farming in Aberdeenshire.  I read many of the organic classics including Lady Eve Balfour's 'The Living Soil', and realised the crucial importance of soil health to the whole organic system. I have been a symbol holder since 1985.

Who are your customers and where are they?

They are many and varied, and include dedicated organic consumers who love the way our products work and those who find our products suit their sensitive skin conditions. Where? We supply shops locally and nationally as well as our herbfarmacy shop in Hay-on-Wye. We have an online shop - www.herbfarmacy.co.uk - and we also supply products overseas, particularly to the Far East.

What do you love most about what you do?

Working with plants which I have been fascinated by since childhood walks in the lanes and fields with my dad.  And working with others - we have been very fortunate in having a great team working with us at herbfarmacy.

What do you find most frustrating about what you do?

That I spend too much time in front of a computer and too little with the plants.

Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

Mahatma Gandhi

If I was Prime Minister I would...

...simplify the tax system so that tax is based on ability to pay, and introduce a Carbon Tax – there's been too much hot air about global warming and too little action. And... (don't get me started!)

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

What goes round comes round.

When were you happiest?

I'm pretty happy right here and now.

What is your favourite meal?

A well-baked floury organic spud with Ragstone goats cheese and onion marmalade with a green salad or coleslaw.

To find out more about herbfarmacy visit www.herbfarmacy.co.uk
 



Bookmark and Share




Meet more heroes...

Jane Shepherd of Organics for Kids in Oxford
"Given some of the serious environmental and human problems associated with conventional cotton growing, organic cotton seemed like a really good place to start."
Luke Hasell of The Story Group in Compton Martin, near Bristol
"We became organic in 2004 because organic farming is the future of agriculture and therefore was an easy decision for me to make."
Phil Haughton of The Better Food Company in Bristol
"Organic principles are the foundation of healthy life for all humans, animals and soil. Without sustainable agriculture we are stuffed."
Victoria Thompson of Green Nippers in Barnsley
"We wanted to make a difference to the world, so the use of organic fabrics was extremely important. Using organic cotton is not only better for the whole supply chain, but for the wearer too."
Roger and Penny Webber of Hindon Organic Farm, Exmoor
"Organic principles gave us back our pride in farming; they protect the soil, the animals and us for the future. Profit at any cost is not sustainable, but we all profit from organic."
Vanessa Warn of Little Green Rascals Organic Day Nursery in York
"We need to respect the land in terms of what we put in to be assured of good stuff coming out for our children and their children."
Bob Kennard of Graig Producers in Wales
"Organic is a fiendishly complex message to get over to the consumer when compared with single message foods, such as local, fair trade and free-range yet it has many of the answers to our current difficulties with food production."
Dale Orr of Churchtown Farm in County Down
"I decided that organic farming was the only way I wanted to farm because it is sustainable and gives due consideration to animal welfare and the environment."
Dr Paul Benham of Primrose Organic Centre in Wales
"I arrived at the bare field of Primrose farm in 1985, gained the Soil Association symbol in 1986 and began farming organically to assess whether I could disprove the view of the time that organics could not achieve high output or superior quality."...
Henry Edmunds of Cholderton Estate in Wiltshire
"We have achieved a balance between the demands of modern highly competitive agriculture and the preservation of the countryside."