Name: Paul Robinson
Where: Lode, Cambridge
Crops you are likely to find in your box: kale, squash, leeks, potatoes
Paul has been involved with organic agriculture for over twenty years. He began converting the first five acres of his family farm in Reach and Lode in 1991, well in advance of the time when it became fashionable to do so. Paul and his wife Doreen were pioneers of the organic box scheme industry and are also well known as growers of commercial fruit trees and strawberry runners.
Waterland organics is a terrific example of the ‘ideal’ organic system. It is a mixed farm and Paul farms both horticultural and arable crops and keeps livestock as well. He aims to be completely self sufficient in terms of fertility and the manure from his sheep, chickens and horses will be ploughed straight back into the soil to feed the following season’s crops.
Like many organic farmers, Paul is particularly proud of the populations of wildlife that inhabit his farm. Waterland organics is regularly visited by a local naturalist who conducts a weekly bird count. Of particular note are several breeding pairs of lapwings and skylarks and Paul is very careful to manage his land in such a way that doesn’t disturb their breeding. Lapwings and skylarks are both ground nesting birds, so Paul will leave alone areas in his fields where he knows nests to be, and only mow well after the chicks have fledged. This, of course, means that no crops can be grown in these areas and Pauls estimates that around 1ha of land around his farm has been taken out of production for this reason. Such generous commitment to wildlife is not entirely altruistic though, as it is always good practise for the organic farmer to encourage bio-diversity on the farm. In this case the birds which have taken up residence at Waterland will earn their keep by eating caterpillars and grubs, leatherjackets and the liver fluke larvae that would infest the sheep. Paul is planning on putting up starling boxes to attract starlings to farm which would also feast on the diamond black moth caterpillar which would attack his cabbages and chaffer larvae which attack the roots of many crops. Both Paul and the naturalist reckon that there is noticeably more wildlife at Waterland organics even than in the non-organic fields of the neighbouring farms.