top of page


Our food and its soil are vital elements that require revival. Beyond merely supporting the planet's surface, soil is what we all tread upon. If the health of our soil is a reflection of the health of all living things that stand upon it, we must better understand what is beneath our feet and our effect on it.

Photo credits: Keymea Yazdanian

While I didn't grow up immersed in farming, I embraced this lifestyle at the onset of the pandemic. Starting from scratch, I penned a letter seeking land rental and distributed it to farms within a 5 mile radius of my hometown. Fate smiled upon me when I received a positive response, granting me the opportunity to begin my journey. I commenced with 80 pastured laying hens and initiated a small market garden. Last year, I expanded to include native cattle grazing on the National Trust estate of Ashridge in Hertfordshire. These ventures converge to provide produce to my customers—private homes and cafes/restaurants—through subscriptions, one-time orders, or farm pick-ups.

Situated amidst the enchanting forest pastures and ancient woodlands of Ashridge Estate, I have direct access to an incredibly diverse and unique landscape. Our primary focus on the farm is nurturing healthy soil and habitat, with resilience and diversity at the forefront. Like everyone, we face resource constraints, making adaptation critical, as challenges seem to lurk around every corner and over every hill. One valuable lesson learned is that nature isn't out to get you; it simply manifests in a unique way. It's up to us to observe and marvel.

In my early twenties, I spent several enlightening years working with the family business, founded by my grandfather Peter Dudley, which still specialises in supplying processed fruit and vegetable products to the UK from producers and manufacturers around the world. We source items like Ginger Juice from Peru, Lime pulp from Honduras, and Pineapple concentrate from South Africa. It was during this time that I gained a deeper understanding of supply chains, particularly within the food industry.

I soon realised that the challenges we face are deeply rooted in structural issues that affect all of us downstream in various ways, directly impacting our health and well-being. This realisation prompted me to explore alternative solutions. I began studying natural ecosystems and the inherent patterns within them. This eventually led me to permaculture and in 2018 I spent some time in New Zealand doing a permaculture design course, which changed everything for me. My experience at Tui Community in Golden Bay and the mentors and people I met, gave me a whole new outlook and thirst to get going. I quickly realised that I wanted to try and take the holistic, pattern driven methods practiced in permaculture and try and make them work on a farm scale.

Farming has taught me so much since I started, with the learning curve being so steep, it feels like the lessons come hard and fast. I have realised that when working with landscapes and our ecosystem, real and patient observation is vital to finding proper solutions. It allows us to actually deal with the root of a problem, rather than only treating its symptoms. 

When working with the animals, really observing gave me a wider array of tools to tackle the daily challenges we, as farmers, meet. For example, we have incorporated the cattle and the chickens in order to streamline and maximize the productivity and resilience of both animals. I now keep a few of the cattle running ahead of our hens, moving them around a 10 acre bit of pasture. I knew this was a well used method due to the benefits realised in not only the health of the animals themselves, but also the gifts it can give to the soil and therefore the pasture. However, I also realised the simple benefits that I was able to exploit in the day to day chores associated with the enterprise - the cattle grazing the grass low so the chickens are able to peck and scratch and take the younger shoots of grass, as opposed to the older more carbon rich parts of the grass. It also solved the problem I had been experiencing with predators and the chickens. The cattle would graze the grass down so my poultry fencing would work and therefore pack a punch on the nose of any fox trying to get an easy meal.

What happens on the farm, happens. Sometimes it's fortunate, sometimes it's not. I wanted to share the journey with my customers, so they can understand the real cut and thrusts of farming. For example, if we have issues on the farm which affects our ability to supply, we let our customers know. I believe that this is the real tenant of food security. I want to be able to look my customers in the eye and talk with them about the produce they receive, whether it be our eggs, beef or vegetables. 

I believe that our food systems should be localised as much as possible, and today we have all the means to create these direct and short supply chains. Farming is integral to how we can build strong communities, and a strong community is the foundation for social wellness. Nothing happens in isolation in nature, it is a complicated mix of many things living in partnership. Community, I would argue, is no different. All the working parts are symbiotic and therefore, fundamental. 

We must realise a different relationship with our soil and surroundings if we want to realise a better future. I sometimes feel as though we are very lost and have forgotten our truth. Our lifestyles have strayed so far from the land based ones our ancestors as close as 100 years ago would have lived. You really would not have to go far back at all to meet an ancestor of yours with soil under their fingernails. There is a farmer in all of us. I suppose this is a question I ask myself, how can we stay connected to our land and its foods in an ever growing technological world? If we think of the human population as a living organism, I really believe this idea of ‘growth at all costs’ is killing us slowly and stopping us from flourishing and thriving. It may seem counterintuitive, but I believe many of the answers are already there in nature. The natural world is full of paradoxes but the solutions really are everywhere, you just have to look. The three principles of permaculture are ‘earth care, people care and fair share’. This, I believe is a good place to start.

I am 4 years into Cheyney’s and have lots of ambitions as to what else we can achieve. We will be opening a farm shop later this year, attracting new customers but also allowing our current subscribers to come to the farm and see and feel it for themselves. I hope to hold dinners and events as well as workshops and learning sessions for all ages, in a bid to strengthen those community ties and connect more people to their local food system. Small and medium sized farms are disappearing every day in this country and in the world more broadly, and this is a direct threat to communities food security and well-being. We must all try to realise the value in produce and food, and understand that it is not a sure thing that we are entitled to. We can only thrive if we allow and encourage the natural world to thrive, simple as that. Just like on the farm, you reap what you sow. 


Discover More


bottom of page