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Friends Kate Forrester and Mollie Taylor start up Long Lane Farm in Ringwood to feed and educate local community



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LIFE-LONG friends Kate Forrester and Mollie Taylor are so passionate about organic, locally grown food they have teamed up to create an eco-farm in Ringwood – and the community are invited to come along and get their hands dirty.

The pair took on the four-acre plot in Crow at the end of last year, and are in the process of planting a market garden featuring 40 different types of vegetables and herbs, a mixed-fruit orchard, and a wildflower meadow and hedgerows – the “highways of biodiversity”.

As well as providing fresh produce for local people, Kate and Mollie want to get communities directly involved in growing food, without the use of synthetic fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides – which they say are harmful to the land and our health.

Kate Forrester and Mollie Taylor
Kate Forrester and Mollie Taylor

“We want to educate people about how food is grown and showcase how much you can do on a small plot in line with nature,” said Kate (37).

She is a former private chef who most recently spent two years working with horticulturalist and author Charles Dowding, a pioneer of organic soil management involving a no-dig approach to avoid disturbing soil cycles.

“People are becoming more and more disconnected from nature and the food we eat. We want to re-establish that link by inviting schools, charities and community groups along to the farm to plant and harvest the crops, and even cook on-site using what is grown here.”

To fund their venture Kate and Mollie will be running a subscribed veg box scheme, selling any surplus to local shops and restaurants.

They have also set up a crowdfunder to help them buy a wooden teaching yurt to run conservation workshops and cookery classes.

Mollie, who has a BSc in biodiversity conservation and an MSc in animal behaviour, will focus on attracting wildlife to the farm, and is hoping to build a small bird hide.

“The Tree Council and Ringwood Actions for Climate Emergency have given us whips, or baby trees, to form a hedgerow and for the orchard,” said Mollie.

Kate and Mollie want to get communities involved in growing food
Kate and Mollie want to get communities involved in growing food

She also runs a bereavement group at Hengistbury Head Visitor Centre with a focus on reconnecting people with nature.

She added: “We want to bring nature back to an area that has been intensively farmed – ploughing and the use of toxic pesticides is killing our environment and we can’t keep doing it.

“We are losing the quality of the soil, which then means you don’t get as healthy crops.

“There are microbes in the soil that give plants everything they need in order to grow and fight off disease. We don’t need pesticides, which are actually killing off those microbes.

“The problem with traditional monoculture farming is that, firstly, the soil is ploughed, which disturbs the fungal network and damages the ecology of the earth.

“Because the soil is poor, the crops are more susceptible to pests and, alongside that, you have just one crop being grown, so you are not seeing any diversity in wildlife which means the pests that attack the crops have no predators.

“What we need to see more of are diverse crops, which will then mean more pollinators, which prey on the pests which attack those crops.

“This is what we are trying to do here. Our hedgerow will ensure biodiversity by creating a wildlife corridor. Without it species would be islandised and a genetic bottleneck would occur – they are then effectively defunct.”

Kate and Mollie will be running a veg box scheme
Kate and Mollie will be running a veg box scheme

Kate added: “The fields in this country are deserts. If we don’t have hedgerows there is nothing for a bird or a bee to land on.”

A small patch within the market garden will be set aside to imitate a private garden, through which Kate and Molly can demonstrate how to grow crops at home and pollinator-friendly flowers.

So far, the crowdfunder has raised nearly £10,000, but the pair are still a way off their target. The money will also enable Kate and Mollie to offer out their space to charitable groups free of charge.

Rewards will be given in exchange for a donation, such as jewellery, tote bags, breakfast at the farm and an exclusive dinner with Charles Dowding.

“The response from the community has been incredible,” said Kate. “People have come down to the farm to help and we’ve had locals keen to know about and get involved in what we are doing. We’ve even had people wanting to pay for a veg box for families in need.”

To donate, visit www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/long-lane-farm-uk

For more information, go to www.long-lane.farm or follow them on Facebook and Instagram.



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