Chagfood Community Market Garden – Dartmoor, England
by Ed Hamer of Devonshire, UK
Chagfood Community Market Garden is a CSA supplying 80 shares a week from five acres, on the edge of a small town called Chagford on the northern edge of Dartmoor National Park, in Devonshire, England. Chagfood has been running since 2010 when it was set up by Ed Hamer and his wife Yssy. Having been born and brought up in the National Park, Ed was aware that many of the traditional farming skills and knowledge of the area have been lost as farming has become more intensive. As a result he was keen to use working horses on the market garden from the very beginning, in an effort to keep the skills of working horsemanship alive for the next generation. There are estimated to be fewer than 20 people making a living farming with horses in the whole of the United Kingdom.
Ed uses native bred Dartmoor hill ponies, crossed with heavier Welsh Cob horses, to produce small but hardy working horses with a mellow temperament. As native horses, they are extremely hardy requiring very little in the way of grains or additional feed. Ed typically only feeds hay when snow is on the ground in the winter, which in the temperate maritime climate can sometimes be as little as two weeks a year.
Despite the long history of working horses in the UK, the transition to tractorized farming in the 1930’s and 1940’s was dramatic, and as a result very few traditional horse drawn farm implements are still available in working order. Instead Ed has had to import a Kassine cultivator from France (identical to the Annie’s All-in-One) and he also imported the very first Pioneer Homesteader into Europe in 2012. As a result of limited access to land in the UK, it is traditional to grow several rows of crops on a bed system. Ed has therefore adapted his Homesteader to cultivate three rows on a 1.2 m bed. He uses the Kassine cultivator to grow all of his Brassicas and potatoes on 60 cm ridges.
In February 2015 Ed managed to get funding for a five week trip to the U. S. to visit horse farmers and share knowledge and experiences. On this trip he visited more than 20 farms across 18 states, driving 6,500 miles from New York to California. One of the highlights was visiting the Pioneer factory in Dalton, OH and on returning to the UK he fabricated his own cultimulcher, based on the Pioneer design, which he has mounted onto his Homesteader. Ed is also co-editor of The Land magazine (thelandmagazine.org.uk), a bi-annual magazine about land rights and politics currently being syndicated by The Greenhorns in the U.S. He is planning to write a more detailed article about his farm and cultivation systems for SFJ over the winter.