26 October 2001

Organic cred helps producer secure FBT

IMPRESSIVE environmental and organic credentials helped a producer to secure the farm business tenancy on Castle Acre, a 1600-acre chunk of north Norfolks 25,000-acre Holkham Estate.

Terry Bird already farms 1000 organic acres in south-west France, and his innovative methods, including a composting and reed bed purification scheme, impressed Holkhams resident agent Richard Gledson.

The agreement will initially run for nine years, but if successful the agent sees no reason why it shouldnt be extended. "It is very exciting to have the opportunity to do something like this on such a large scale, and I couldnt discount converting more of the estate.

"Holkham has always been at the forefront of innovation in the past, but perhaps not so much at the moment, I am hoping we will gain a lot from Mr Bird. It also means all the current staff will be retained."

From the outset the estate was looking for a tenant prepared to focus on conservation, although organic production was not a prerequisite. "We had good offers from conventional farmers, but in the end we wouldnt have learnt so much."

Barley, oats, lupins and beans will be the first organic crops to be harvested after conversion in 2004, but it is hoped cattle, pigs and poultry will eventually be introduced into the rotation.

Mr Gledson was unable to specify the rate agreed for the FBT, although he noted that some tenders were higher and some lower. "The rent wasnt the sole consideration but I am happy with what we achieved." &#42