The Full Circle Farm
Full Circle Farm
On my everlasting search for all things local, ethical and delicious I came across a small Sussex farm that is run in a very unique way by an incredibly influential and inspiring bloke, called Tom.
Tom started farming 19 years ago as an apprentice on the very farm he runs today. Labelled as an underachiever in the standard dogmatic education system of the time and not suited to the constrains of a classroom (like many of us past and present, myself included) Tom found his calling working with his hands and the earth.
The Full circle farm is run for the benefit of its contributors as well as providing horticultural therapy for schools, veterans and those suffering with disabilities both mental and physical. Tom runs his farm in a way that may chefs may find alien. One pays for the plot acreage to supply his/her farm with the produce required for their kitchen which is pre-planned between Tom and the chef. Sounds simple? And it is.
As a chef, being limited to what you have available to you off which is in effect your own farm, can in fact be greatly liberating and also challenging. Financially, one has committed to a vast majority of their produce all coming from one place so any supplementary produce bought in effects the profit margins and viability of the farm. So, the solution is to be as innovative and creative as possible with what you have. A good lesson for us all, I think.
Another string to his bow is his Zero Food Waste campaign which he runs alongside new business partners Pale Green Dot. Food waste contributes massively to landfill and other controversial methods of waste disposal. Parallel to this conundrum is the ethics of why so much food IS wasted where it needn’t be and the waste that is a necessary evil of food production not contributing back into the natural process of supporting the surrounding biome. In nature there is no such this as a waste product. It’s all symbiotic. What Full Circle Farm and Pale Green Dot are doing is rectifying a large proportion of this broken system and replicating natural processes.
Participating restaurants and food businesses collect their food-waste in specific bins that is then collected and composted on the farm. The waste includes anything from scraps off customers plates, bones, peelings, spent stock pots, teabags, coffee grinds, egg shells… Literally anything that will compost, is compost!
After just 4 months of rapid fermentation where by huge composting chambers are pumped with oxygen to accelerate the decomposition, you are left with a rich, black, steaming pile of nutritious compost.
Innovative as ever, Tom is now moving his huge composting operations into his poly tunnels. Huge amounts of heat and humidity are generated by the fermentation, harnessing it in his tunnels regulates a higher temperature through winter and a much higher, more humid environment in summer meaning he can grow essentials such as herbs and salads more consistently through the winter and more exotic varieties of veg in the summer months that otherwise wouldn’t suit our climate. What’s better he hasn’t burnt a gram of coal or paid a single tax paid penny to an energy supplier to do it. In fact, he has actually improved the quality of the air, fixed carbon and nitrogen in the soil where it should be and reduced the greenhouse effect (or poly tunnel as it were!) OBE soon your Mag?
When it comes to planting time or moving onto a new plot of land that hasn’t had the FCF treatment, instead of ploughing or “tilling” the land (which is rather demonized) Tom can simply, year on year, lay down further layers of nutrient rich compost, preserving the fertile land beneath and adding to it from above with biomass, once again, just like in nature! Fist bump Tom, you legend.
Toms process is one that can be simply, quickly and cheaply plugged into just about anywhere. Even plots in inner city waste land. One doesn’t even need to cultivate poor land available as the nutrients come from the food waste compost. With a little education and a little backing, this incredible process and ethos could be implemented all over the country, all over the world. Reducing our waste and utilising its natural qualities while improving the air, the soil and our diets, bringing food closer to home.
In our opinion, Tom a total food hero and we are heavily involving ourselves in the pursuit of his continued success. Watch this space and get in touch with him!