Food pioneers Martin Godfrey and Sara Melendro from Hilltown Organics are revolutionising how we farm.
Incorporating wild edible plants into their polyculture farming systems, they grow high-nutrient food plants that are sold at farmer’s markets.
According to soil scientists, their revolutionary farming practices have produced some of the richest soil found anywhere in the UK.
Besides running their own organic market garden, Hilltown Organics; Sara and Martin are also members of Harvest Workers’ Co-op, a not-for-profit social enterprise which works to increase access to ecologically and sustainably produced food, build a fair and resilient food system and raise awareness about all issues related to food and farming through community events and educational activities.
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About Sara Melendro and Martin Godfrey
About Martin Godfrey
I’ve always held a lifelong interest and passion in farming, horticulture and wildlife.
I have been lucky to live and work on the land my whole life. I grew up and worked on my parents conventional mixed farm in East Devon and later in a local dairy farm where I worked for 15 years, until I made a life-changing move to take a job growing veg on an amazing organic farm in Exeter where there was visibly so much more wildlife present, far greater numbers of birds, insects, bees and spiders.
This was where my interest in soil health was sparked; it is all about the soil with organic farming, something I was not taught as a younger man at an agricultural college.
No pesticides or artificial fertilisers are used in organic farming so great care is dedicated to feeding the life of the soil building and recycling the nutrients naturally.
Here I grew interested in the edible wild greens that grew all around naturally and would pick a few Dandelion, chickweed, plantain and other seasonal delicious wild edibles adding them sparingly to the farm’s mixed salad bags.
Today, with my lovely partner Sara, we pick and sell wild green packs from our land. Sara and I grow fruit and veg using no-dig, polyculture and agroforestry methods, mimicking nature’s mixed up way of growing.
We produce greater yields of food per area than any monoculture system without any outside inputs with our diverse planting schemes which incorporate weeds into the system.
Modern industrial agriculture is heading for a crisis with ecosystems around the world in collapse and I have great belief regenerative agriculture is the way forward to repairing depleted soil and feeding a greater population of people on this precious planet.
We have been learning about the importance of soil biology and the microbes within it for the health of the soil, the food produced and the whole ecosystem and we are now running soil health, no dig and soil biology workshops on our land and other local events to spread this knowledge.
Regenerative Agriculture repairs the mistakes of the past 60 years of industrial chemical farming, today we have the knowledge and the tools to rapidly repair degraded soils all around the globe and this is what I share and live and work for today. So I still have my hands in the soil 50 years on, but instead of playing in it as a child, I spend every day working in it and learning from it.
About Sara Melendro
My background is very different to Martin’s, having been brought up in a flat in a city on the Spanish coast and having little knowledge and experience of the countryside. I studied Social Sciences and International Development and spent many years working in academic research and the NGO sector.
I had been politically active in various social movements since the late 80s and campaigned against the WTO and IMF policies and for the rights of landless peasants and a fairer global food system; later on also getting involved with the environmental movement in the UK.
However, I had very little first-hand knowledge of farming and no practical knowledge of food production or the countryside until much later when now in the UK I started to feel the need to connect to nature and to learn some practical skills and be more self-reliant.
I slowly started to learn about plants, growing food, wildlife etc. Eventually, I left my full-time job with an international NGO and started volunteering on organic farms and community projects and I carried on learning.
A few years later, Martin and I bought the land at Hilltown Organics and the learning continued. We both developed a keen interest in the wild edibles that grew around us and started to incorporate this into our growing system and into our diet, which links with another great interest of mine, nutrition.
I am an avid reader of research in nutrition, diet and also soil health and it’s the connection between these that I am now immersed in learning more about and using this knowledge to produce nutrient-dense food and sustainable systems.
I am a keen fermenter and love cooking and experimenting with wild and unusual foods and I’m developing a little side business producing wild edible products and running small catering events and pop-up cafes.