Big Changes to make an even Bigger Difference
Susi Seward - 26 September 2013
Back in April I attended an event on farmer-led CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture), where I met intriguing, moustachioed farmer Davon Friend. He gave a talk about the journey he and his brother have embarked upon to set up a meat and dairy CSA. In my experience CSA’s are usually about growing veg, and so this seemed a pretty unusual project, and I jumped at the chance when Davon invited me to pop by if I was ever in the area.
It has been a busy summer and so I didn’t find myself in North East Dartmoor until late August, but the offer was still open and so I trundled up the long track to Chagfarm where I was met by Davon’s brother and fellow farmer, Sylvan.
He showed me around the tranquil 5 acre rented site which is comprised of a stretch of woodland nestled in amongst the organic fields of Rushford Mill Farm. There the brothers have built a series of woodland enclosures for the animals, and I had a good introduction to the raucous pigs and inquisitive goats – ‘Melody’ in particular seemed to find my sleeve rather tasty, and in turn I grew rather fond of her.
There are also a number of beehives, and grand plans are afoot for the dilapidated barns, which eventually will become goat accommodation, a milking parlour, and a dairy. The dairy is already half-built with the practical brothers doing the majority of the work themselves.
Sylvan and Davon grew up on a small-holding in South Devon and have harboured a desire to get back to their farming roots ever since. After a lot of planning, market research and decision-making, they finally made the big change last year and upped-sticks from Bristol to make their dream into a reality. With backgrounds in carpentry and marketing, alongside their farming experience and a handful of courses in animal husbandry, they make a strong team.
Sylvan is motivated by his desire to be on the land, to learn more about organic farming as he goes along, and to eventually produce the best-ever cheese! His aspiration is for Chagfarm to be a shining light demonstrating how beneficial small-scale, local and organic enterprises can be for both the local economy and ecology.
The brothers are two of the latest organic pioneers on the Soil Association books and it is really encouraging to see such an innovative project offering employment for two young farmers, and demonstrating what is possible when the will is there. Through implementing huge changes in their own lives, Sylvan and Davon are creating the opportunity for 30 local families to make the smaller change of switching to an organic, local and high-welfare supply of meat products; a big difference overall.
Unfortunately I don’t live locally otherwise I would certainly be on board, but I look forward to returning in the future to see how the project has developed. Find out more about Chagfarm CIC here.
Susi Seward is a senior certification officer for Soil Association Certification, responsible for a number of our small-scale horticultural licensees, including those in Scotland and Northern Ireland. She studied the anthropology of food and farming, as well as gaining a certificate in organic gardening and volunteering on various organic holdings across Europe. She is interested in both the cultural and practical aspects of our food systems, with a particular passion for community and education based farms.
You can follow her on twitter: @SusiSeward