Whitehall Farm & Harvest Barn Farmshop

THE FARM:

The farm has been certified organic since 2007. No pesticides or artificial fertilisers are used. We grow a range of crops including cereals, vegetables and fruit, with more than 15% of the farm dedicated to providing biodiversity and habitats for wildlife. The farm participates in a ‘countryside stewardship’ agreement with Natural England to increase natural habitat and biodiversity.

Organic wheat is grown using modern and old varieties and supplied direct to artesian millers and windmills to make flour and bread. Barley is sold for malting, which is used to make beer. Organic oats are a key part of our farming system and supplied directly to Glebe Farm at Huntingdon https://www.glebefarmfoods.co.uk/. All our oats are organic and Gluten Free. We undertake careful in-field, machinery and storage practises to ensure that no contamination from other cereals occurs to maintain gluten free status. this included dedicated oat storage. We sell cereals made into flour and gluten free products at Harvest Barn, a truly local, circular economy.

Pests and diseases are managed through careful land rotation and by providing lots of habitat for beneficial insects and natural predators. High-tech approaches are used to manage weeds including self steering tractors and computer & camera guides inter-row hoe tractor mounted equipment.

The farm has 4500 organic apple trees as part of the UK’s largest commercial agroforestry system, with trees and crops in the same field with 24 meter alleys between the trees for field crops. We grow 15 varieties (6 heritage, 9 modern). The fruit is sold through the farm shop and we also make fantastic apple juice which we sell in the shop and café. The apples are pressed and bottled for us by Sandringham. The agroforestry increases habitat provision and the trees act as windbreaks to help protect soils form ‘fen-blow’ wind damage. The agroforestry is a 3 dimensional system which uses more space above and below ground, capturing more sunlight, producing multiple crops from the same fields and increasing productivity. Every year we have two harvests, first the field crop of cereals or vegetables, then later in the autumn the apples.

Dotted around the farm are lots of beehives which are important for pollination of flowers, fruits and vegetables. We also love our earthworms and provide food using cover crops and minimise soil disturbance wherever possible. All or fields have wide grassy and flower rich buffers strips to protect water courses. Ditches are deliberately left ‘scruffy’ to provide habitat for insects, invertebrates and birds. We manage multiple areas with pollen and nectar producing plants for insects and and winter seed producing covers just for farmland birds. We farm so we can be productive and friendly to nature at the same time.

The farm is certified Organic by the Soil Association and we routinely undergo rigorous inspections to ensure that all practices adhere to organic standards.

THE FARMSHOP:

We opened Harvest Barn Farmshop in January 2018, providing locally sourced produce including locally and home grown vegetables, local meat and deli items as well as a wide range of locally produced vegetables, bread, cakes, pastries, jams, honey, chocolates, alcohol and more.

We sell a huge range of gluten free products too, including flours, cake mixes, pasta, cakes, condiments, fresh bread, biscuits and so much more. The oats produced at Whitehall Farm are made into Gluten Free breakfast cereal by Glebe Farm. We also stock a range of sugar free and vegan products too. We’re always on the lookout for new and exciting products so keep your eyes peeled in store to see what we have coming next!

Muddy Boots Farmyard opened in Summer 2018 and has recently undergone a further transformation – it provides wonderful outdoor seating for the cafe, overlooking the beautiful Fenland countryside, as well as various play areas for children, animal pens and so much. (Plus, there’s alot more to come too!)

LYNN & STEPHEN BRIGGS

Lynn & Stephen are first generation farmers and have always had passion for the countryside, nature, farming and the soil. For a long time they have been concerned that we are taking more than we are giving from one of the earth’s most precious resources, the soil. They both trained in agriculture, ecology with an MSc in soil science. They both spent a number of years overseas in Africa and India, working with farmers on soil and water management.

With a background in soils and providing farm advice, they purchased some farm land in Rutland in 2005, followed by securing a tenancy for Whitehall Farm in2007 which is owned by Cambridgeshire County Council. Alongside roles as Director of ‘Abacus Agriculture’, providing farm management advice, we jointly manage the farm to produce crops, biodiversity and habitat for wildlife. We continue to work with universities, who undertake research to measure the positive impact our farming operations have on soil, wildlife, biodiversity and productivity.  Stephen is also head of soils for the Royal Agricultural Society of England/Innovation for Agriculture on a part time basis – in this role he bridges the void between research and practical farming, translating messages on soil health to an industry wide audience. Lynn manages Harvest Barn farm shop and has taken it from inception to a thriving business connecting the farm back to the local community and generating local employment.

Growing crops on our farm, advising other land users and allowing farm visitors and customers to Harvest Barn to share in a real working farm, learning more about farming and the countryside provides us with immense satisfaction and purpose.

FARM FACTS

FARM SIZE: 254 acres (Whitehall Farm), & additional 20 acres (Rutland)
RAINFALL:  24 inches per year
ALTITUDE: -1 to 1.5 metres above sea level
SOILS: Whitehall: peat and heavy clay soils. Rutland: Cotswold brash
APPROACH: Organic rotation, agroforestry, biodiversity