Midcoul Farms, Inverness-shire
Harvest starts: October
Harvest starts: October
The Rose family have farmed in Inverness-shire, Scotland, since William Rose’s great-grandfather took a farm tenancy in the area back in 1912. William made the decision to convert the family farm to organic after he took over the business 20 years ago. In the late 1980s, before organic farming was even legally defined, his father had already “dabbled in organic farming”, he says.
“I found myself drawn to the philosophy of organic farming,” says William, “so I started converting all the farm to organic. I started looking at growing vegetables, because I thought there was a market for that and that process led me to start banging on the doors of the supermarkets, because no-one at that time wanted anything to do with organics.”
William says one of the best examples of organic farmers working with nature is using “elicitor technology” to maintain the health of the carrots. “Here, we’re trying to elicit the natural defences of the plant. It’s no different than in a human: if you had no access to medicines, what would you do to try and maintain your health? The answer would be you’d eat a very good, clean, healthy diet designed to bolster all the bits of your body that naturally defend itself. It’s the same with plants.”
These methods including feeding the plants calcium, which they absorb and use to strengthen the structures of their cells. “This is a natural way of trying to boost the plant’s ability to fend off pests,” says William. “We also use plant-derived amino acids to try to make sure that at times of stress the plant has all of the amino acid building blocks it needs to grow properly and to defend itself.”
Other innovative approaches to working organic crops at Midcoul Farms include a hand weeding machine – which William says is nicknamed ‘the nuts machine’ because no one thought it would work. This is a bed mounted behind a tractor, on which 20 to 30 pickers lie with their heads supported so they can easily hand-pick the weeds. William says inventions such as these were pioneered out of necessity in the organic movement and have since been adopted by conventional farmers.
“We’re growing vegetables which are very intensive, very precision-based. Because they are organic, there is also a huge amount of hand work involved,” says William.
The farm also has two anaerobic digestion plants that convert waste food into energy.
Alan, Duncan and William Mitchell