Soil Association Inspection
Jack Forster - 02 March 2011
Monday 28th February was our annual Soil Association Inspection, and I am glad to say we passed with flying colours! The inspection is the worst part of being organic I think, because although you know you have done everything you can to comply, there is always that nagging feeling that something might go wrong! I must admit, I had very little to do with the inspection as I have been very busy with my rugby training, but my mum spent the weekend crossing the ‘t’s and dotting the ‘i’s with a little help from my fiancée.
I though it might be useful to give a very brief description of what the inspection covers (with a bit of copy and paste!):
1. Ensuring the animals have access to pasture
2. Making sure organophosphate and organochlorine aren't used. On some farms (organic and non organic) they are used to stop parasites like mites, lice and sheep scab. However these chemicals have harmful health effects on animals, the environment and us.
3. Ensuring organic farmers use clean rotational grazing systems to reduce the build up of parasites, select hardier breeds with greater resistance to pests and parasites and take great care with fencing to prevent the spread of sheep scab. In cases where animals have pest problems despite a farmers best efforts - a limited range of vet treatments (injections and 'pour ons') can be used, provided strict withdrawal period are observed in order to ensure animals do not suffer.
4. Ensuring soil association slaughter standards are met. These include: not allowing any tenderising substances prior to slaughter; ensuring all animals are stunned before slaughter. This process must cause unconsciousness and insensibility instantaneously, without distress, and until the animal dies.
Luckily for us, as a farming family, we farmed using many organic principles for years before actually becoming officially organic, and so we were able to adapt into the Soil Association regime without too much difficulty. The hardest thing to be aware of is the minor compliances. For example, we do farmers markets, and we have to display our soil association certificate at the market itself, not just in the butchers shop. We have found that the inspectors are very helpful, and rather than pick holes in your system, they help you to follow the guidelines as closely as possible.
Back to the day to day though, and its my day off from trainig, so I thought I would write this before heading upto the farm to give mum and dad a lift. I think I might be trapping a few moles today. We only do it on our silage and haylage fields, but if we don’t the soil from the mole hills gets into the bales and they go rotten, which can be a big financial loss. There’s lots of butchering work to be done today as well, getting ready for shop day tomorrow!
Jack is a professional rugby player with Sale Sharks, but also has an active role in his family's farm in St Helens. The family are fourth generation farmers and and own two Soil Association licensed organic farms. All the cattle and sheep that are reared on the farm are butchered through the on farm butchery, and sold to local people through the farm shop, local deliveries and local farmers' markets. Jack is a keen supporter of British farming and wants to encourage more people to 'buy local and think organic'. He studied agriculture at Hartpury College and aims to go back into farming when he retires from rugby.