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New organic demonstration farm

Organic Centre Wales has recently welcomed a new member to the network of demonstration farms it manages as part of the Farming Connect Organic Development Programme. Peter Bottoms bought the 200ha Esgair Forest near Machynlleth in 2007 and entered it into organic conversion in 2008. While it is first and foremost a forestry business, Peter's unique approach means that he sees more than wood and trees! He is particularly interested in different ways in which the forest can used to generate an income while trees mature. His initial focus is on woodland poultry but he is also thinking about pigs and soft fruit.

At present he is experimenting with using cover crops to increase the proportion of the diet table birds get from the range– something that will be also be of great interest to the 'main stream' organic and free range producers. The cover crops are a mixture of insect attracting plants including birdsfoot trefoil, borage, phacelia and red clover and seed bearing crops like quinoa, chicory, kale and millet.

Different batches of birds will be on different feeding regimes, ranging from no access to cover crops and ad lib feed at one extreme to access to cover crops and only 80% of the normal ration available at the other. Slaughter weights, growth rates and gross margins will be recorded for each batch and there will also be a taste test as well.

Tony Little, who helps to manage the demonstration farm network for Organic Centre Wales said "Peter's inclusion in the Network marks a new direction for OCW in that it the first time we have worked with a forestry business. I am excited about working with him and am looking forward to meeting a new group of producers. On one level it's about organic approaches to woodland and sustainable systems of food production but it's also about taking a different approach to using woodland and forestry resources and making the most of all the opportunities they present."

The first event will take place on 13 October. Contact for more details: 01970 621632.

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Aberystwyth University, Ceredigion, SY23 3EB
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