In the parish of St Veep in Cornwall's South East Coast AONB Rory Sheehan and Milo Corcoran run Earthbound Farm, a passionate and colourful contribution to the local food economy. Jess met Rory in Cornwall back in 2020, his energy and enthusiasm for growing completely infectious and ability to tackle challenges head-on impressive. Not only do Milo & Rory share their commitment to making a positive impact on their community through nourishing, nutrient dense produce - they’re bringing people together through music and gatherings. Earthbound farm will be a space shared with other small-scale like minded producers, so it will grow to become a diverse and innovative hub, to share resources, ideas and most importantly build strong & valuable relationships with one another. For this week's Journal entry we’re honoured to have Milo tell us more about Rory and his exciting project and journey so far.
The farm grows a range of vibrant and healthy fruits and vegetables primarily for local businesses, schools, individuals and also for their own events where they will showcase their produce. The farm will also be home to a plant nursery predominantly full of interesting, useful, medicinal and edible perennials. These plants will be raised from seed and cuttings where possible, and will be sourced from their neighbours local food forest at Plants for a Future. Good friends Georgie and Cameron of Ripe Cider will be farm residents too, with their cidery on site and the shared project of establishing their orchard in the neighbouring fields. As well as orchard establishment and revival, the team will be planning and planting fields with useful, edible trees from their nursery where the gradient of the land doesn’t lend itself to much else other than grazing. Grazing will continue too, with a starter flock of Shropshire sheep being welcomed to the land over the autumn. The project is in its infancy but it's moving along with a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm from everyone on the team. In years to come they are hoping to host workshops in cider making, sustainable small-scale growing methods and preserving produce.
Rory and I first met working on a farm for two different food producers in St.Mellion near Saltash just over the Cornish border. We both feel that we landed in Cornwall during an uprising of energy and enthusiasm for dynamic and innovative approaches to agriculture. It was and still is a great source of inspiration and motivation to be surrounded by such dynamic individuals. We were both pleasantly surprised to find a thriving community of young growers and doers, far from the cliche of an alienated and isolated farmers life we had come to expect. Rory’s background was a blend of field and kitchen experience, working for a variety of pioneering restaurants around the world whose attention to produce left him with a passion for growing and cooking with fresh ingredients. Working at Crocadon farm paved the way towards making Earthbound a reality, channelling all the skills he acquired there to help this project flourish in its infant stages.
I was just cutting my teeth in the growing world when I got to Cornwall, first coming to the industry with an aromatherapy qualification and an interest in growing for the production of essential oils, of all things! It didn’t take long before I was captivated by this community-oriented industry of small scale food production.
It was clear that food production done in the right way, held the most opportunities for engaging people with their landscape and changing the way they think about what they eat! Showing how healthy ecology can lead to a healthy society and how connected and dependent we really are on the intricate systems that sustain us.
Having both previously lived in cities before reaching Cornwall, we could have never anticipated the lifestyle we discovered here. There was a degree of freedom we hadn’t experienced before, life suddenly became something to be experienced on your own terms, there was room to take risks and learn by trying, to explore and discover for yourself. What was more - there was an authenticity to the relationships being made that gave a feeling of genuine kinship and support. The paradox of rural life vs city living where everyone is so close to one another but so disconnected seemed to be dispelled yet miles between us were still present, we’ve become intimately threaded together despite this.
The world of small scale growers has shown itself to be full of compassion and generosity, with advice and assistance never far from reach. When situations are tough our community of friends are there to support us and this is something we want to make ever stronger. Thanks for the help with the tunnel gang!
Obviously life as a grower is not without its challenges, and the elements offer as much struggle as reward within any given year. We’ve been lucky to witness production on a variety of scales , this has informed us what works and what doesn’t, catering to a range of customers whether that be wholesalers, restaurants or the local community. This range of scales really highlighted our desire to set up a smaller farm that we could manage efficiently, making the most of the products we grow and minimising waste. Also, the most rewarding work for us is always when working in close contact with the consumer, when we’re able to form relationships with them, understanding their needs along the way.
Both Rory and I went on to manage, at different times, the food production at Coombeshead Farm following our moment in St.Mellion. We’ve both enjoyed the experience of working in diversified systems of production which will be at the core of Earthbounds future. We also enjoyed a more personal level of connection with the consumers of our produce, and the chefs preparing and presenting it to them. We would often be stopping and chatting to guests staying on the farm as they wandered through the vegetable garden or the woods where the pigs were raised. This involvement with the guests highlighted the benefits of a low impact, low input, no-dig market garden. We saw how safe, aesthetically pleasing and ergonomic these growing spaces can be, making them accessible and engaging for both guests and workers. In recent years we have seen how a variety of outputs within a business is synonymous with its resilience against challenging times and shifting markets. This resilience through variation is a theme that is observed in the natural world and our business approach will not be dissimilar. Honest communication is key! A farm where resources can be used in any number of ways provides versatility, and utilises our skills as chefs and farmers in a beautiful way. A nod here to Bill Mollinson, a founding voice of the permaculture movement who stated that “the yield of a system is theoretically unlimited”- a statement worth bearing in mind when managing life on a farm; plant, animal or otherwise.
We have been heavily influenced by permaculture principles in our farming practices, aiming for self-sufficient food production systems, cycling nutrients back to the earth and building soil whilst being rewarded simultaneously. In this system it is highlighted that these principles also branch into the life you lead and the choices you make - a culture of sharing and helping one another and walking lightly on the earth is a culture of permanence. This cultural shift is supported by the confidence and creative freedom that comes from sustaining yourself from the land, shifting into a frame of mind characterised by abundance and opportunity.
Very different to most aspects of our culture that is founded on scarcity and a competition for limited resources, funnelling and focussing our energies into static rather than dynamic ways of life. We are excited to be approaching the whole project with these principles in mind, we want what we are doing to enrich the lives of our community for many years to come.
We believe that a farm can offer people a lot more than food. We’ve seen that a farm can be a source of empowerment, education, healing and pure enjoyment and we are delighted to be giving ourselves room to explore all these wonderful potentials.
We would be remiss to not mention our music! The partnership that is Earthbound came about during the first lockdown, where our shared passion for music led us to investing in a sound system built on Bodmin Moor by a veg box customer of one of our friends. This was whilst we were both still employed on other farms, and was born out of our enjoyment for getting together with our friends who were largely farmers, chefs or producers of some sort. These casual gatherings had been an enduring source of positive energy and had nurtured the relationships that were so central to the rest of our professional and personal lives. It seemed like a worthy cause to invest in… also we both really wanted to have our own sound system for as long as we could remember!
Our aim has always been diversity. Supporting ourselves through this diversity will help our business in these early stages, curating events that nurture existing relationships and strengthen new ones. It has always been our future intention to allow this support to spill into our local farming community, helping other businesses financially and emotionally with Earthbound events.
It’s been so wonderful to feel that we can contribute to the momentum for the wider cultural shift that’s taking place in agriculture at the moment.
Find our More https://www.earthboundfarm.co.uk/