Rural community gains health benefits from organic enterprise

April 10, 2013


Gold Hill Farm Shop

FULLY CERTIFIED: Staff Jo Stephens and (North Dorset District councillor) Jane Samper speaks with a customer at the Gold Hill Organic Farm Shop, Child Okeford. All the produce on the shelves meets the certification standards of the Soil Association. Picture by Matthew Bell

 Gold Hill cafe

COMMUNITY HUB: The café at Gold Hill Organic Farm that is regularly used by visitors to Gold Hill and residents of Child Okeford.


AN organic vegetable producer in North Dorset has notched up a quarter of a century of improving the palates of its customers.

Gold Hill Organic Farm of Child Okeford, near Blandford, is run by Sarah and Andrew Cross and was certified fully organic by the Soil Association in 1988.

In its infancy, customers used to ring a cow bell to gain the attention of the staff and have now seen the premises triple in size. Originally there was one polytunnel and one acre of vegetable and this has expanded to 10 acres of vegetables and nine polytunnels.

They always have an acre of raised beds to ensure something can be harvested even when there is inclement weather.

So what does Soil Association certification actually mean? In the first instance genetically modified (GM) crops and ingredients are banned under organic standards, as is the use of pesticides.

The certification claims that organic farming releases proportionately less greenhouse gases than conventional agriculture and its local and seasonal food has a significantly smaller carbon footprint.

A spokesman said: “The vegetables are picked in the morning and placed directly into baskets in the shop. Only yards not miles are involved.

“We grow vegetables, from chillies to carrots, peas to beans, tomatoes to potatoes, garlic to onions and shallots and much more, and because we grow all this ourselves we are reasonably priced too.”

Although meat is not reared on the premises, it is sourced in the farm shop and it has to meet to accredited animal welfare standards of given plenty of space to roam and fresh air to thrive and grow and is literally given a free-range live.

The use of hydrogenated fats and controversial additives such as aspartame, tartrazine and MSG are also prohibited under Soil Association standards.

Whilst this news site was visiting Gold Hill Organic Farm on Wednesday, Lucie Cowles of The Natural Path took a group of nature lovers to learn more on the art of foraging.

There is plenty of other activity on the premises. Rachel Sargent has a studio at Gold Hill Organic Farm painting landscape scenes and exhibiting a variety of galleries and art trails. Rachel runs painting workshops for aspiring artists throughout the year.

With 20 years of experience as a glass blower, Emsie Sharp works out of the Cowshed Studios and exhibits through galleries and fairs as well as running occasional glassblowing courses.

Also on site is James McCall of James’s Cheese.  He works in partnership with Mike Smales and Paul Thomas of Lyburn Cheesemakers in the New Forest and Alison French at Chalk Valley Cheese to develop a new range of washed, rind cheeses.

The cheeses are made at the Lyburn and Chalk Valley dairies and then matured at James’ specially designed maturing room at Gold Hill Organic Farm.

Although not based at Gold Hill, Christine Willis of Christine’s Puddings supplies the farm shop with her award-winning gluten-free puddings. They are also regular attendees of the Sturminster Cheese Festival, being based just down the road from the event.

As a coeliac for most of her life, she couldn’t find any gluten-free puddings and she saw a gap in the market and decided to make her own. Her Sticky Toffee pudding and Rum Ale and Christmas pudding both won highly commended status in the Food Matters Free From Awards.

  • GOLD      HILL Organic Farm has a stall at the Castle Cary market every Tuesday from      8.30am until noon and the farm shop is open from 10am-4pm on Wednesdays to      Saturdays and 10am-2pm on Sundays.



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