EP19: The Future of Farming is Foraging

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

Hilltown Organics, Okehampton, Devon - Eatweeds Podcast

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.

8 thoughts on “EP19: The Future of Farming is Foraging”

  1. I have to say that reading your post is sparking my interest in the weeds that we keep cutting down and getting rid of. My husband teases me that I should try and grow weeds and then maybe the vegetables would grow better. He’s not really a vegetable eater but maybe he’s right, maybe the Weeds on our property is part of the solution. I guess now it’s all a matter of the homework and research that I can do. Thanks for all the information you put out there ?

  2. Hi Robin, I have just been listening to the podcast hill town organics! wonderful stuff, this is what its all about as far as I am concerned these people know what they are talking about thank goodness its catching on theres hope for the future!
    the podcasts are excellent Keep up the good work

  3. Thanks again robin for another great podcast! So inspiring to hear people like Martin and Sara, pioneering individuals who are out there doing it! Particularly when Martin mentioned that he was already in his 40s when they acquired the land! There’s hope for me yet! This is exactly the area that was covered briefly in the PDC course I attended earlier this year! I intend to keep this passion alive and growing! You are one of those people who are helping to connect people! That is something hugely appreciated! Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start or who to speak to?! I know who I’m going to be getting in touch with very soon! Gives me a good excuse to visit the south West again too! Keep on with your great work Robin! Hopefully one day our paths will cross too? Best wishes

  4. I feel so lucky to have had my eyes opened to the amazing edible plants growing freely around us, and the wealth of knowledge that pioneers such as you, Robin are gathering (pun intended). This article and Martin and Sara are truly inspirational. Healing the earth while nurturing ourselves and our souls. Thank you so much.

  5. Listening to the podcast, thank you so much. Really interesting about the seed saving! We are in the process of looking for land to set up our own nature/wildlife reserve but also growing herbs, etc, so this is such good food for thought in every respect. I have a lot more research to do but just listening to this has made me feel excited about the future.
    Also so wonderful to see other people are enthusiastic about this, makes me feel so much more hopeful for the future.
    Thank you all. xxx

  6. Robin that was amazing and so inspiring…Ive been considering trying to buy a small piece of land to try something like this and now feel it’s absolutely the right thing to do..
    thank you so much. Suzi

  7. Always good to hear such stories of hope in a beleaguered world.

    I would love to have more land but since discovering foraging, I realise what a gift nature is. She does all the hard work and I pick the fruits of her labour!

    Still, it would be better if more people who treated the land like Martin and Sara were able to have access to land that they could restore.

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