Coombe Farm Organic is found on Coombe Farm near Crewkerne, in Somerset. Andrew Warren originally owned the farm and when he passed away in 1986, his legacy was the creation of the A. H. Warren Trust.
Diversification has been a focus for the trust. Its key aim is to invest in profitable rural businesses that create opportunities and enable the local community and economy to flourish. At Coombe Farm HQ you’ll find a building contractor, auto repair and sales garage, country pursuits shop and storage company, as well as Coombe Farm Organic.
Having been focussed on dairy for many years, Coombe Farm gained Soil Association organic status in 1999. The trust still runs three dairy enterprises, and these, along with several other locally owned farms contribute to the Coombe Farm organic milk pool. All of the organic milk is delivered directly to Yeo Valley, which manages an organic dairy processing unit on the Coombe Farm site.
Across our operation, we have very high standards, from sustainability to animal welfare. We aim to be self-sufficient and environmentally friendly while utilising the land to its optimum and keeping healthy land management at the heart of our practices.
There are several ways in which we measure this. As a Red Tractor member, we ensure the highest standards of animal welfare. And our Soil Association certification means we support natural, traditional, chemical-free farming methods. We also provide fully recyclable packaging to our customers.
Alongside these activities, there are a couple of things we’re especially proud of.
The trust has strong ecological and sustainable beliefs so renewables were a no-brainer when it came to fulfilling our on-site energy needs. Harnessing solar power makes us fully self-sufficient. We’re proud to have been one of the first to generate and use solar energy in our area. Solar panels are set in some of our fields, as well as on the roofs of our buildings. A regulation of having the panels is that the land must still have an agricultural use, so often you’ll see our sheep grazing amongst them. In hot weather the panels provide shade for the sheep and, in return, they mow and fertilize the grass.
As an organic operation, one of the largest challenges we face is getting good yields from our grass and crops without the use of pesticides or artificial. To avoid weed infestation and low productivity, we have to figure out ways of harnessing nature and using the resources at our disposal.
A good example of innovation comes in the shape of wastewater. The dairy processing unit (managed by Yeo Valley) had long faced the problem of disposing of the dirty water used to wash down the facility every day. Conventionally it would be tankered off-site, leaving a sizeable carbon footprint. To avoid this, we reuse the waste to fertilise our fields. The liquid (a mix of water, yoghurt and milk) is collected from the unit and mixed with the dung (known as ‘slurry’) from our 450-strong herd of milking cows. The mixture is put through two ‘slurry pits’ or ‘settling ponds’ that allow the solids and liquids to be separated. They’re then filtered into a final pit for storage, before being sprayed or spread onto the land. It’s a great way of turning a by-product into an organic fertiliser and minimising our environmental impact.