Coombe Farm Organic is situated on Coombe Farm near Crewkerne, which was owned by Andrew Warren. When he sadly passed away in 1986, the estate became the A H Warren Trust. The farm gained Soil Association Organic status in 1999 and was solely a dairy farm for many years. To this day there are three dairy farms that are owned by the trust which and along with several other locally owned farms contribute to the Coombe Farm Organic milk pool.
Diversification has been a key focus for the A H Warren Trust – introducing and supporting several businesses, including a building contractor company, auto repair and sales garage, country pursuits shop and a storage company as well as Coombe Farm Organic. The key aim of the trust is to invest in farm diversification, doing so by setting up businesses that become profitable and offer more opportunities to nurture other rural enterprises, enabling our local community and economy to flourish.
Here at Coombe Farm Organic, we have very high standards in all aspects of our enterprise, from sustainability to animal welfare. We try our utmost to be self-sufficient and environmentally friendly, always keeping land management at the heart of our farming practices. There are several ways in which we achieve this. We're a Red Tractor member, ensuring the highest standards of animal welfare. And we're also Soil Association certified organic – so nothing unnatural or synthetic is applied to the land. By supporting traditional farming methods we believe we can get the most out of the land and ensure higher levels of animal welfare. Providing fully recyclable packaging to our customers is one of the most recent changes we've made, in line with awareness of the damage done to the environment by plastics.
The trust has strong ecological and sustainable beliefs so when it came to assessing how much energy as used on site, it was decided that renewables should be investigated. Solar energy was the way to go in terms of becoming fully self-sufficient in energy. We are proud of being one of the first to generate and use solar energy in the area. The solar panels are situated in some of the fields on site as well as on the rooftops of the buildings. A regulation of having the panels is that the land must still have an agricultural use, so often you will see our sheep grazing underneath them, which is great for the sheep, and essential for maintaining the land.
Solar energy is a massive part of being sustainable but we don’t stop there…
One of the largest barriers which as a business we face is ensuring sufficient yield from our crops without using any pesticide or artificial fertilisers on the land – something which conventional farming allows. The result of not using these techniques on the land poses a high risk of a failing yield and possible weed infestation. We had to figure out a way of minimising this risk, and so improvise - which is exactly what we did. The dairy processing unit (managed by Yeo Valley) had long faced the problem of having to dispose of wastewater, used to wash down the facility every day. Conventionally it would be tankered off-site which would cause a large carbon footprint. To eliminate this, we proposed the venture of reusing the water to fertilise our fields. The water is collected from the unit (a mix of water, yoghurt and milk content), and then pumped up to the dairy parlour where it will be mixed into the slurry from the 450 strong herd of dairy cows. Once it is mixed, it is then put through 2 slurry pits or settling ponds where the solid and liquid are separated and then filtered into the final pit where it will be stored until it is sprayed onto the land. This is a great technique of turning a bi-product into a useful fertiliser which works within our organic regulations, keeping our carbon footprint to a minimum.
The team at Coombe Farm are very busy all year round, ensuring that we get the most out of our land without being damaging - we put back what we take out. Throughout the summer we will take 4 cuts of grass to produce silage, straw and hay from to feed to our cattle during the colder months. We also grow a range of forage crops which will be mixed into the animal feed to provide a balanced ration and ensure the livestock are getting the best diet possible.
At Coombe Farm Organic, we source Beef, Pork, Lamb, Chicken, Fish and Venison which is sold on our website. The beef, lamb and pork is grown at Coombe Farm whilst our other livestock are reared on local farms within Somerset.
The beef we rear on the farm is a bi-product from the dairy herd as we breed Friesian dairy cows with either a Simmental or Limousin Bull. For a dairy heifer to produce milk for the milk enterprise they must have calved, and instead of breeding pure dairy cows we have mixed the breed so we can use the cattle for beef, making the most the existing enterprise. After some cattle breeding research, we have swapped the bull to a Hereford as we have found that this native breed will produce a shorter and stockier animal which will grow more efficiently on our grass-fed system. The first calves of this breed have recently been born which is the beginning of a very exciting next 25 month - when the first of these calves will be ready for you to sample.
We grow two breeds of sheep in different flocks; a Blue Texel Ram and Poll Dorset Ewe cross, and a Lleyn Ewe and Romney/Blue Texel cross. This breeding has been chosen because we continually strive to have a year-round outdoor system. Breeding has a large impact on this and this cross, in particular, will help to produce lambs which are smaller, so easier to lamb naturally without human intervention. We started off lambing once a year at Easter however this soon proved a small problem as our lamb is so popular that we were running out of lamb around January before the next lambing season. To be able to supply a consistent product all year round we have introduced two lambing seasons into our farming system this means as well as lambing at Easter we will also be lambing in November, so again exciting times ahead.
The pig producer we work with is a small local farmer who uses a Gloucester Old Spot boar and Saddleback sow. He is fully Soil Association certified organic and grows pigs for us as part of a mixed farm, growing beef, chicken and arable for himself. Organic pork is very difficult to source around the country so we are very lucky to be working with an amazing producer. Another exciting prospect in the pipeline is for Coombe Farm to begin rearing our own organic pork with the help of our current producer by supplying us with weaner pigs to finish at the farm. This means that we will have a larger and more consistent supply of pork coming through our system and continue to work closely with our producer.
Fish and Organic Salmon were a huge success when we launched a few years ago. We are so lucky to be able to work with some great fisherman which source the best quality fish whilst being sustainable. Our fish comes from a family run business based in the Brixham Fish Market, the boats use a specific sized net so that anything that is underweight and cannot be sold will be able to swim through, ensuring that there is little wastage. Once the fish arrive at the market, they are sold, filleted and frozen within a few hours to ensure the quality and freshness is kept within the product. The organic salmon is sourced in Ireland at Glenarm Bay and reared in the Irish Sea where the current is perfect for the fish to gain a great muscle structure - improving the taste! Glenarm Salmon is a world-renowned producer and very selective with the retailers that are allowed to sell their product. We are very privileged to have been chosen to stock their amazing product if you haven’t tried it yet we would highly recommend it!
Moving back locally, our chicken producer is only half an hour away from Coombe Farm an in our opinion rears the best free-range, organic chicken in the UK. As well as our chicken he also rears our turkeys, geese and ducks for Christmas. If you didn’t know already we also stock duck all year round!
The newest meat category introduced on the website is Venison which has proved incredibly popular already. Organic venison is a very rare product to find with only 7 organic venison farmers in the country. finding and securing these animals with our producer was a huge success for both us at Coombe Farm Organic and our customers. It’s great to know that as well as being Soil Association certified Organic, the venison is also grass-fed, free-range and happy to roam acres of land.