14 July 1998
Cunningham visits leading organic farm

By FWi staff

AGRICULTURE minister, Dr Jack Cunningham, yesterday met with leading organic hill farmers and other farmers who are considering converting to organic production.

Dr Cunningham visited the ADAS Redesdale 1000 acre organic lamb and suckler beef farm in Northumberland, which is managed by Ray Keatinge. It is one of the largest hill farms in England to convert to organic production.

Mr Keatinge told Dr Cunningham that organic production could offer a viable alternative system for financially hard-pressed hill and upland farmers, many of whom could convert with minimal changes to their farming systems.

He pointed out that lambs from the Redesdale organic breeding flock achieved premiums of more than 15 per cent above market price last year.

“Premiums for well presented and professionally-marketed organic meats have been rising over recent years and what was a niche marketing activity has now become an established and regular trade from primary producer through to consumers on the supermarket shelf,” Mr Keatinge said.

Officially designated Less Favoured Areas (LFA), predominantly in the hills and uplands, represent 53% of the UK land mass and support over 60% of all breeding ewes and suckler cows.

“Harnessing the hills and uplands for organic production could be highly beneficial for the development of organic farming nationally, and is closely compatible with broader conservation policies for these areas,” Mr Keatinge said.