A solitary wind turbine stands tall in the lush, rolling fields of Jacobstow in northern Cornwall rotating appreciatively amongst the fresh breeze from the nearby coast.
Cottage Farm isn’t too far away, but this isn’t your average farm. Far from it in fact. Since 2005, owners Paul and Celia Sousek have been working towards making the organic farm completely carbon neutral as well as becoming one of the first of its kind in the UK. But what’s truly remarkable about Cottage Farm is their outright audacity in achieving this feat.
“Every single aspect of the business, farm, house, lifestyle, travel and involvement in the community is driven by the need for sustainability and resilience,” says Paul.
You only have to take a stroll to within a few hundred metres of the place to get an idea of the farm’s green credentials. The solar pv panels that dominate the house’s roof and the wind turbine go about their day content on producing clean energy. Red Ruby North Devon cattle, a traditional, local breed, graze peacefully in the farm’s green pastures without the need for supplementary feed. It’s an environmentalist’s dream.
The list of carbon cutting measures really is remarkable. As well as the aforementioned solar and wind turbine installations, they have super insulated and draught proofed the house as well as completely converting their heating from fossil fuel to solar and biomass. There’s a wood burner for hot water which they initially extract from their own water borehole, and all of the wood is harvested on-site.
Take a deep breath, they even make their own biodiesel for their cars, tractors and Land Rover, from waste vegetable oil.
But Paul is keen to stress that this model of living is realistic and totally viable. “This is the future”, he says and not just for humanity but for farming in particular. “As energy and fertiliser prices soar in the years ahead, this model of farming and living will likely take over from the conventional methods.”
It’s easy to see why. Their carbon footprint has decreased by 110% from seven tonnes of CO2/year to minus 1.3 tonnes of CO2/year since they started their green makeover. And Paul claims that the model is “entirely reproducible over the country and expandable to any large size”.
Outside of his work on the farm, Paul has spoken at the House of Commons as well as national and local conferences to spread the word. He has set up a local group with over 1400 members to share ideas on sustainable methods and also hold opens days explaining and demonstrating how to reduce energy consumption and convert to renewables.
It’s hard not to be impressed by the Sousek family. As you explore further, a new segments of green innovations arise. They deliver their meat in reusable boxes using carbon neutral transport. The meat is tender and flavoursome aided by the cattle’s resilience in withstanding harsh winters through a natural ability to build up fat reserves which, in turn, produces top quality meat. The cattle are also extremely well adapted to unfertilized grazing as Cottage Farm uses no fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides.
Far from holding the farm back while they focused on other things, putting sustainability at the heart has really made the farm flourish. There are a lot of happy farmers at this environmental paradise.
He seems to approve!