For the second time in this two part story The Sunday Session welcomes Lewis Winter!
So Lewis took ownership of the land, bringing his family to live in a caravan for the summer months, and still commuting to Nottingham. Next, they put their house on the market, hoping to move closer to the farm. It was now 91’ and a recession was starting to bite in the U.K. For the next two years this routine continued, the farm grew, accumulating a small number of livestock including ducks, geese, chickens, cows and pigs. They began to sell cheese, milk and butter and produce a small amount of meat.
Still the house was yet to be sold, not even a viewing in almost two years! Then at the end of the second year, this happened:
“Literally in the house opposite the main gate, there was a chap in his eighties, a lovely old fella: Harry. He’d been the local chimney sweep since the 1940’s, and he came over and he said: Lad, I’ve been watching you from out the window. You work bloody ‘ard, he said. As I understand it you’re living in Nottingham. Well, it would be far better if you were to live in the village.
“Yeah Absolutely” Lewis said. “Yeah I need to sell my house first. Why?”
“Well I’d like you to have my house. I’m gonna put it up for sale, and I’m moving down into the home counties, to go and live with my daughter ’cause my wife’s got dementia. We need help and my daughter’s down there.” And he said “I think my house would do you proud, ’cause it’s next to the land and I think you deserve it, and I’m prepared to do a discount on it.”
Lewis said. “I’d love to say yes, but I can’t sell my house, and I just don’t have the capital.
And he said. “Well, what’s the problem”. Lewis went on to explain the recession and what have ya. Harry said. “Well leave it to me.”. Lewis was like “What do you mean, leave it to you”?
Harry was part of local Christian network and explained that he would bring it to the evenings prayer meeting, and that he would get back to Lewis the following day with some kind of solution.Lewis being thirty and a bit big headed, trying not to laugh in Harry’s face, smirked, “Yeah right o’, alright mate”. And forgot all about it, until the next day when Harry showed up and said: “We had the prayer meeting last night. You’re gonna sell the house!” So Harry honoured the offer and kept his house off the market for the time being.
Lewis continues. “And what, blow me down! This is no word of a fib. The very next day there was a knock at the door. And there was a chap standing there saying. “I’ve seen your for sale sign, and I’d like to have a look round please.” After a guided tour around the house, right then and there he said he wanted to buy it! But Lewis would have to shave the price down a little bit. They negotiated the price and shook hands.
“Done” I said, totally into Lewis’s re-telling of the event. “It was absolutely astonishing” Lewis remembers. He stated then that he would never laugh again about the power of prayer. “A human spirit!” I added.
Lewis and his family came to the farm with good intentions to grow organically . But twenty-five years ago the organic farming industry had sunken into a malaise. The collective opinion back then was one of, well if you were growing organic, then you had to be a bearded hippie clinging on some sixties vibe and maybe a tree hugger. He used to find this quite insulting as organics is about far more than an opinion, but more about nutrition and sustainable business. It was difficult justifying to a customer that they ought to buy organic eggs for an extra fifty pence. This as Lewis says was just the zeitgeist of the time.
Then in 2001 foot-and-mouth disease hit the U.K., farming with small volumes of livestock became unaffordable. So it became one of the hardest decisions of his life to lose the sows he’d reared from birth, now being on first name terms with them, sows that had given birth to numerous piglets and goats that had produced gallon upon gallon of milk. Lewis tells me that he thinks farmers are sometimes thought of as people who just breed animals to kill them; he says that farmers are essentially about bringing life into being, and nurturing life.
At this point the farm became solely concerned with the growing of organic fruits and vegetables, Lewis had been inspired by the Bio-dynamic movement which began in Germany in 1924, from a series of lectures by Rudolf Steiner. He saw the earth as an organism which has a link among animals, plants, soil and cosmos, and should avoid foreign elements. Lewis tells me about Bio-dynamics (you can read more about this via the links below).
So hear is a basic explanation of organic versus bio-dynamics:
Certified Organic:Chemical free crop rotation of three years before approval.
Certified Bio-dynamic: Chemical Free crop rotation for seven years before approval.
Lewis admits that the lectures by Rudolf Steiner are so complex that he thinks he understands fully around 10% of the concept. But he adds that much of the world land mass is dominated by bio-dynamics. Why? Because it works! We talk a lot about reasons for chemical farming. Citing the post war Britain, as a time of great population explosion, a time when the country needed extra food production, fast. As with many industries science played a demanding role encouraging young farmers to use new techniques to increase food yields without the slower process of rotation. So I’m sitting there on the farm bench, starting to comprehend the extent to which Lewis has not only transformed the land around him, but also to some extent people’s perspectives.
Lewis uses an analogy to further explain bio-dynamics. Imagine a guy sitting on a park bench, with lots of things going on around him. He puts his head phones in, looks at his smartphone and is no longer, for that moment, fully part of his surroundings. Now think of a tomato plant growing in a chemical soup, with just enough food to grow quickly, but without the vast variety of nutrients available in healthy soil. The tomato has not being able to absorb it’s surroundings and we, perhaps have become less observant.
And back to Sunday’s. Lewis has to work on Sundays and he has kindly taken time out at the end of his day to talk with me and be photographed around Trinity Farm. But I ask him what he would do, if he had the time off? He said he would take the family up into the Peak District with his dog.
And lastly I wanted to share an anecdote that Lewis shared with me, an old memory of his:
Lewis recalls a time when he was eighteen and he would bring boxes of produce to market. Every week there was an old boy there who would ask ‘how much?’, then he would begin gently fettling through each box; looking, touching and smelling each box of fruit and veg. Lewis being a polite young man bit his lip, irritated by the time the old man would take to select the produce. After about the twentieth occasion Lewis broke out and said:
“What the bloody hell you doin’, they’re all the bloody same!”
The old man replied “No lad, I only buy em’ if they speak to me.”
See the farm we have been talking about here.
And some extra reading about bio-dynamics here.
This session is kindly edited by Sara Pasquino.