Friends Kate Forrester and Mollie Taylor start Long Lane Farm in Ringwood to feed and educate the local community

Longtime friends Kate Forrester and Mollie Taylor are so passionate about locally grown organic food that they’ve teamed up to create an eco-farm in Ringwood – and the community is invited to come get their hands dirty.

The couple took over the four-acre plot in Crow late last year and are planting a market garden featuring 40 different types of vegetables and herbs, a mixed orchard and wildflower meadow and hedgerows – the “highways of biodiversity”.

As well as providing fresh produce to local people, Kate and Mollie want to directly involve communities in growing food, without using synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides – which they believe are harmful to the earth and our health.

Kate Forrester and Mollie Taylor

“We want to educate people about how food is grown and show all you can do on a small plot in harmony with nature,” said Kate (37).

She’s a former private chef who recently spent two years working with horticulturist and author Charles Dowding, a pioneer in organic soil management involving a no-dig approach to avoid disrupting soil cycles.

“People are increasingly disconnected from nature and the food we eat. We want to re-establish that connection by inviting schools, charities and community groups to the farm to plant and harvest crops, and even cook on site using what is grown here.

To fund their business, Kate and Mollie will set up a subscribed vegetable box program, selling any excess to local shops and restaurants.

They have also set up crowdfunding to help them buy an educational wooden yurt to run conservation workshops and cooking classes.

Mollie, who has a bachelor’s degree in biodiversity conservation and a master’s degree in animal behavior, will focus on attracting wildlife to the farm and hopes to build a small bird hideout.

“The Tree Council and Ringwood Actions for Climate Emergency gave us whips, or baby trees, to form a hedge and for the orchard,” Mollie said.

Kate and Mollie want to involve communities in growing food
Kate and Mollie want to involve communities in growing food

She also leads a bereavement group at Hengistbury Head Visitor Center which focuses on reconnecting people with nature.

She added: “We want to bring nature back to an area that has been intensively cultivated – plowing and the use of toxic pesticides are killing our environment and we cannot continue to do so.

“We lose soil quality, which means you don’t get such healthy crops.

“There are microbes in the soil that give plants everything they need to grow and fight disease. We don’t need pesticides, which actually kill these germs.

“The problem with traditional monoculture is that, first, the soil is tilled, which disrupts the fungal network and harms the ecology of the land.

“Because the soil is poor the crops are more susceptible to pests and next to that you only have one crop being grown so you don’t see any diversity in the wildlife which means that pests that attack crops have no predators.

“What we need to see more of are diverse crops, which will then mean more pollinators, which prey on the pests that attack those crops.

“That’s what we’re trying to do here. Our bocage will ensure biodiversity by creating a wildlife corridor. Without it, the species would be insular and a genetic bottleneck would occur – then they are effectively extinct.

Kate and Mollie will host a vegetable box program
Kate and Mollie will host a vegetable box program

Kate added: “The fields of this country are deserts. If we don’t have hedges, there’s nothing for a bird or a bee to land on.

A small plot in the market garden will be set aside to mimic a private garden, through which Kate and Molly can demonstrate how to grow crops at home and pollinator-friendly flowers.

So far, the crowdfunder has raised almost £10,000, but the pair are still far from their goal. The money will also allow Kate and Mollie to donate their space to charity groups for free.

Rewards will be given in exchange for a donation, such as jewelry, tote bags, farm breakfast and an exclusive dinner with Charles Dowding.

“The response from the community has been amazing,” Kate said. “People have come to the farm to help and we’ve had locals eager to get to know and be involved in what we do. We even had people who wanted to pay for a box of vegetables for families in need.

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