Stallholder interviews

Swillington Organic Farm

How did Swillington Organic Farm start?

Jo Cartwright, owner and farmer at Swilington Organic Farm, converted to organic about 10 years ago, originally so that she could go back into milk production. However, the price of milk droped too much to make it viable, and she concentrated on producing high-quality, organic meat. She now rears around 50 head of Aberdeen Angus-Hereford Cross, has 5 breeding saddleback sows, 40 breeding Texel ewes, around 300 laying hens and between 1,000-1,500 meat chickens. There is also a range of other animals, kept as pets rather than commercially.

Three years ago she started growing organic fruit and vegetables in the Victorian walled garden, through a scheme called Community-Supported Agriculture. Local families pay for a years’ worth of vegetables in advance. That money is used to employ a grower, who harvests everything which is ready to go on a Friday and Saturday morning, and the members come down and weigh out their own ‘shares’. There are regular social events, which invariably involve eating lots of fantastic food!

The scheme has meant that they have been able to bring the garden back, almost to full production, create employment, and involve customers more closely in the farm.

What is the ethos of Swillington Organic Farm?

We farm in an environmentally-conscious way, to produce food that is not only good for our customers, but also for the vast array of wildlife which lives on the farm. All the food sold on our stall at Oakwood has been produced to the highest welfare and environmental standards.

How do you decide what to produce and sell?

We aim to produce fantastic, organic, local meat and vegetables for local people. We use an abattoir 3 miles away for the sheep and pigs, and take the cattle up to Northallerton, our nearest certified organic abattoir for beef. All our poultry is slaughtered on-site, to ensue as stress-free a process for the birds as possible, which produces the best-tasting, tender meat.

How are you helping to create change?

We believe the way we farm is the way for the future – no artificial (and increasingly expensive) fertilisers, perticides or herbicides, high animal welfare standards, local processing, and local consumers. Our farm employs local people, and we welcome school and local community groups to come onto the farm for farm tours, so they can see for themselves what goes on here.