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Down on the Farm with The Gog’s Charles Bradford

As we all move to live and work more sustainably, The Gog’s Charles Bradford tackles the issue of waste - and what can be done to reduce it

Sustainable food processes have been at the heart of our farm shop journey as we have naturally endeavoured to support low-intensity, small-scale producers. However, when it comes to waste, I realise just how much work is needed to be done and effort made. Every week we recycle more than 3,300 cubic litres of cardboard alone, not to mention glass, recyclable plastics and food waste.

We were a relatively early adopter - more than five years ago - of compostable coffee cups in the cafe, but never really told anyone about it. Thankfully the tide has turned and sharing ‘green credentials’ is an important element for most businesses.

The vast majority of our fruit and vegetables are sold without plastic wrapping, but still further improvements must be made. As consumers we have become so used to the benefits of plastic overwrap such as clingfilm, but we’re finding that many customers are opting to bring their own containers when purchasing loose products, including meat. Butchery plastic pre-pack trays have been replaced by compostable ones and they’ve adopted a paper over-wrap, reducing their use of plastic wrapping by more than 90%.

Charles Bradford at Heath Farm (30761036)
Charles Bradford at Heath Farm (30761036)

A plastic product synonymous with farming is baler twine, used for creating straw bales; something that I warmly remember as a child of the Seventies!A single ball of polypropylene baler twine is typically 10,000ft (approximately 1.9 miles) in length. It is alarming, when we’ve ever disturbed any areas where twine may have become buried, just how little has degraded over 20 or 30 years, often still as bright blue or orange as the day it entered the ground.

On a lighter note, I always remember the tears of laughter rolling down the cheeks of some of dad’s Young Farmer friends, as they recalled one of their ‘funny’ baler twine stories. One summer’s day, upon finishing a hard day’s work on farm, Hans (one of the ex-prisoner of war farmhands) headed back to Cambridge on his bicycle.

Unbeknownst to him, someone had tied one end of the 1.9-mile-long twine to the back of his bike. The other end was firmly tied to one of the farm’s telegraph poles. He would have almost made it to the Addenbrooke’s Hospital site until that twine suddenly pulled tight. . .

Finds from Heath Farm (30761046)
Finds from Heath Farm (30761046)

A collection of finds, all unearthed at Heath Farm: musket shot, bullet, military badge, brooches, Roman coin and pottery

It strikes me just how much waste has changed over the decades at the farm.We have often discovered small clusters of porcelain and glass close to the farmhouse, where presumably the small amounts of waste that were created were simply buried outside.

As recent planning work to improve the junction and entrance to the farm continues, exploratory digging has uncovered some small articles of interest. Over the years we have found numerous buried pieces relating to a bygone age, including parts from the Wellington Bomber that crashed on the farm in the Second World War, Roman coins, brooches and even musket shot (presumably for hunting). With the farm being next to the site of a 2,500-year-old Iron Age fort, next door in Wandlebury, and in close proximity to a Roman road, I shouldn’t be at all surprised with the finds.

Like the majority of us, I hope that we all continue to find a way to exist in a more sustainable way. We cannot let our farming generation be defined by the age of plastic twine.

The Gog Farm Shop is at Heath Farm, Shelford Bottom, Cambridge CB22 3AD. See thegog.com and follow on social for more.

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