Tablehurst Farm is a community-owned farm and garden which seeks to be an example of good practice in biodynamic and organic agriculture, food production, food retailing and community education and engagement. It has been farmed biodynamically for more than 40 years. It also provides a residential care home for three adults with learning disabilities, who work in the farm, garden and kitchen and are an important part of the community life of the farm.
The farm and garden are run as a holistic organism and all fertility as well as most of the food for the animals is produced on the farm itself. The farm produces meat, rearing beef cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry; and vegetables and soft fruit. Tablehurst produce is sold through its own farm shop and café.
The farmers and gardeners aim to treat the land, the plants and the animals in a way that meets their natural needs. The result is truly sustainable, healthy and tasty food.
As a community farm Tablehurst seeks to provide possibilities for people to understand farming and food production better. This includes allotments for local people , the monthly farm kids’ club, the café and café garden, the weekly wood-fired pizza and barbecue. The farm also welcomes offers of help from volunteers. The farm staff encourage people to come, as visitors and customers, to re-connect to the land and their food.
Plaw Hatch Farm
Plaw Hatch Farm is just outside Forest Row on the edge of the Ashdown Forest and near the village of Sharpthorne. It has been a biodynamic farm for over 30 years. The aim of the farmers and gardeners is to provide ethical and sustainable biodynamic agriculture and biodynamic and organic produce, principally to the local community. Plaw Hatch is an open community farm and encourages visitors to walk around the farm.
Plaw Hatch is a mixed farm with a dairy herd providing raw milk, cheeses, yoghurts and cream. Plaw Hatch Mild Cheddar has recently won Gold at the British Cheese Awards, with their Halloumi and Vintage Cheddar cheeses also winning Bronze!
The farm also keeps some sheep, pigs and laying hens. A garden of 12 acres (2 acres under polytunnels) provides a range of seasonally available fruit, vegetables and herbs. All this plus a wide selection of organic produce and wool spun from fleeces from the farm’s own sheep is available through the farm shop.
Tablehurst and Plaw Hatch Community Farm Co-operative
The Co-op is part of the ownership and management structure of the farms and is designed to ensure that the farms are safe for biodynamic and community farming in perpetuity:
- The buildings and most of the land used by the farms are owned by St Anthony’s Trust, Both farms also rent additional land in and around Forest Row.
- The two farm businesses are owned by the Tablehurst and Plaw Hatch Community Farm Co-operative (actually an Industrial and Provident Society but known from its inception as the Co-op) on behalf of some 600 shareholders, mainly from the local community. The Co-op committee is elected annually at the AGM in September and sets the broad overall direction of the farm businesses.
- Each farm is a limited company and has a board of directors which is answerable to the Co-op. In practice, the farm management teams make all the day-to-day decisions about the enterprises, whilst the Co-op committee attempts to set the long-term agenda for the wider community initiative.