Bridport Times July 2019

Page 42

Wild Dorset

CUTTING EDGE Ben Scriven, Tamarisk Farm

O

rganic farms are sometimes seen as trying to hold back the inexorable march of progress. People may perceive them as, at best, romantic traditionalism and, at worst, luddites clinging to obsolete practices. However, as society has grown more aware of some of the consequences of industrial agriculture, many of the traditional practices that were lovingly sustained by organic pioneers are being rediscovered by agriculture as a whole. Timeless lessons are being looked at anew and used to address issues of water pollution, food security, nutrition, soil degradation and erosion, flooding and nature conservation. I would not argue that organic methods are the only way to farm. Indeed, ancient civilisations were perfectly capable of overgrazing, deforesting and over-ploughing, damaging the soil to the point of disaster. And this was long before tractors, pesticides and artificial fertilisers 42 | Bridport Times | July 2019

brought other unintended consequences. Technology is promethean fire from the gods: it comes with benefits and with costs. The trick is to strike a balance between these. It’s all very well producing record yields this year and maybe for the next few years, but will you still be able to grow crops in the soil you are using in 50 years’ time as well? For me technological progress presents the opportunity to pick and choose the tools that best suit the job. For some jobs the most complex, modern or expensive machine is the best but for others a simpler tool will do the job not only more cost-effectively but often better and at the same time may offer me greater satisfaction in the work. Take the scythe, used to cut hay and harvest corn. It was replaced in the late 19th century by the finger bar mower, drawn first by horses and later by tractor. We have three scythes on the farm which we use but we