A Naroques

Return to earth – moving to France

How to farm in a way that grows real food in good soil and leaves the land better than we found it? To that was now added a pressing question of how to do that whilst stemming the financial flood with which the farm was threatening to overwhelm us. A few years previously, life was

Return to earth – soil quality

The question of quality is one that doesn’t figure in farming conversations. The only measure of what comes from the field is how many tonnes. But once you’ve eaten a tomato from fertile soil in august, and compared it to a hydroponically grown tomato in December, it’s not enough to say ‘eat 5 fruit and

Return to earth – the soil

Soil is the accumulation of millions of years of vegetable and animal remains. Nature created the perfect environment for making soil, the forest. There the decaying plant matter, leaves , bark and twigs fall to the earth and mix with the remains of animals large and small. The rain is deflected by the leaves and

weeds at Naroques

Return to earth – a new plan

I had borrowed a lethal looking home made machine called an ‘encimeuse’. The idea is you drive through the field with a series of blades in front of the tractor set just above the height of your crop , which cut down the taller weeds before they can make viable seeds. It can only ever

Naroques farmyard

Return to earth – a farmer’s life

My farm life began with the wettest spring for 50 years and a slipped disc which got so bad I was unable to walk and required an operation. From the hospital bed I tried to keep down a rising sense of panic at having invested the family silver in a farm just at the point

Andy Cato

Return to earth – Being a farmer

Excitement at being a farmer was soon giving way to apprehension when it became clear that a lot of the work involved being a mechanic. There were warnings that if I didn’t know how to fix stuff (said with an unspoken ‘which you don’t’) then I had no chance. The former owner Claude was only

A Naroques - fields

Return to earth – farming in France

The  purchase went through in the spring time and so the winter wheats were already in the ground (winter cereals are sown in the autumn and harvested the following summer). There were signs of disease on the crops. At the time I put this down to a symptom of the vicious circle of industrial agriculture;

Return to earth – buying farm land in France

Buying farm land in France is regulated. The state gives top priority to Young Farmers, then neighbouring farmers, after which is everyone else. If there are a lot of candidates with an equal shout on paper, they have a committee where you go and say why it should be you. In the search for the


Return to earth – what’s in a teaspoon?

Standing in the DJ booth last Friday, it was going off. In the middle of the sweat, noise and lasers, I had a thought I’d not had in a nightclub before. Topsoil. In one teaspoonful there are a greater number of living things than all the humans that have ever walked the earth. Everything we