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Grassroots News Vegan Views 100 (Spring 2004)

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Vegan Organic Trust (VOT)

A breakthrough in publicity for the cause of animal-free growing came in January, when the BBC Radio 4 'On Your Farm' programme featured a visit to Iain Tolhurst's stockfree organic market garden in Berkshire. Iain explained the reasoning behind his methods and why they were of benefit to people, animals and the environment. A link to VOT's website was on the BBC website for some two weeks afterwards and VOT hope that more attention will follow from this. The original interest from the BBC and the widespread publicity before and after the programme was generated by the mostly email networking of VOT's supporters.

Co-operation with Soil Association Certification Ltd to enable growers to register as stockfree-organic is continuing.

The VOT website www.veganorganic.net is being constantly updated and now contains comprehensive information sheets, plus many articles from past issues of Growing Green International. An email discussion group for VOT supporters has now started and has about 45 members so far. New supporters are very welcome; further information is on the website.

Vegan-Organic Trust supporters in Canada are looking into using chipped branch wood as a soil improver, since getting enough vegan organic material from other sources can be problematic. Woody material can, while it's breaking down, rob the soil of nitrogen, which is a serious problem. However, this doesn't seem to be such a problem if finely chipped twigs and small branches are used, in conjunction with green manures. Perhaps coppice woodlands of trees such as ash could be established on marginal lands, damp pastures, uplands, etc; which is currently often occupied by farmed animals and not usually considered suitable for crop growing (apart perhaps from grass). Such woodlands could form a huge resource of organic material to replace the animal manures and chemicals that are used now. Later on in the life of the coppice, stem wood could be available for various purposes. The story of chipped branch wood and how to use it is in a continuous series of articles in Growing Green International, the magazine of Vegan-Organic Trust. Web: www.veganorganic.net.

Ancient Woodlands Project, Yorkshire

This 29-acre site near Scarborough, North Yorkshire, is owned and run by Louisa, who is a VV member.

She had another volunteer event in March 2004. Previously, she has had a volunteer week in September 2003, but this time she wanted to hold a volunteer weekend instead. The idea was for people to help with the planning and preparation of the permaculture growing areas, tree planting, tree guard removal, path clearing, etc. Experience was not required, just enthusiasm for woodlands, permaculture and the environment! Unfortunately, it rained very badly that weekend so the volunteer weekend had to be cancelled. Louisa hopes, however, to hold other volunteer weekends.

During the volunteer week last September, the bracken was cleared in some areas, and this year many woodland plants have appeared. For instance, primroses are now more widespread. It was encouraging to see the difference that the clearing makes, helping to bring back normal woodland growth.

Louisa now lives in the woodland, which allows her to spend more time working on it.

For more information, contact Louisa on 07748 101117. Email: Ancientwoodlands@aol.com. Web: www.woodlandproject.org.uk.

Welhealth Fruit Farm (North Wales)

This is a 20 acre vegan organic farm which also has strong interests in self-sufficiency and 'growing power' using wind generators and solar panels to generate electricity. The house there also has solar water heating, and they have rain water collectors from the roof of the house.

They try to grow their own food, mainly herbs, vegetables and fruits. They are starting to grow white lupins. The seeds of this plant can be used in a similar way to soya, and similar products to soya-based products can be made from it.

The farm is approx. 1,200 feet above sea level, and roughly one acre is currently cultivated. In the last few years, they have planted five hundred to a thousand trees to act as a wind break.

The fruit trees grown there include apples, pears, cherries, plums and damsons. The pears do not grow well in this high location, since they need a warm sheltered spot. The cherries grow well they are in fact wild cherries. Fruit bushes grown include blackcurrants, redcurrants and gooseberries.

The ground near the house is very tough since it's mainly slate, which made tree planting very difficult. The owner, Vic, moved in around eight years ago. He tried to plant a rhubarb plant shortly after he moved in, but the ground was so hard that he couldn't find anywhere to plant it! Further from the house, however, the land gets better. The farm is set in a forest clearing near Alwin reservoir, with pine trees all around. No-dig cultivation is used, and extensive mulching is applied. They have plenty of grassland, so some of this is mowed and used as a mulch.

They have around 45 members who sometimes come down to help out, and they have four gatherings per year for members and their friends.

They are appealing for people to stay there short term to do some work on the farm. For full details, see the advert on p 17 in the General section.

Welhealth can be found on the internet as part of the "Diggers and Dreamers" website at www.diggersanddreamers.org.uk/Gallery/wlhealth.

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Cross-reference: Growing Fruit & Veg