Waylands Farm and its neighbour Hall Barton Farm lie between the picturesque fishing villages of Looe and Polperro on the south coast of Cornwall. Both have been in the care of the Maddever family since the early 20th Century. Today the fourth generation is at the helm: Giles Maddever farms all the land together, with daily help from dad Geoffrey, who is semi-retired these days. We’ve been enjoying the Maddevers’ produce for many years; they keep us in organic beef and lamb from native Hereford breed cows and Dorset sheep, as well as tender autumn venison from their small free-roaming herd.
Both farms (200 hectares of up-and-downy Cornish land between them) were certified organic by the Soil Association in 2000. Although organic was still a relatively new concept at that time, the farms’ long history turned out to be a benefit when they were undergoing conversion; Geoff was surprised to find himself returning to the methods he had first learned alongside his father and grandfather.
“We found that a lot of the things we thought were going to be difficult were easier than we thought, because it was the traditional way,” Geoff says. “It has a lot to do with good stockmanship. We take everything from birth to slaughter, and we grow everything that the stock eats here on the farm, which makes for a more sustainable system. It’s also better for the environment.”
Waylands and Hall Barton have always been traditional mixed farms, growing crops as well as rearing livestock. This too made the conversion to organic simple; many organic farms are mixed, because rotating the fields between grazing animals, crop growing, and rest-years under clover leys, ensures that the soil stays healthy and fertile without needing to use artificial chemical treatments.
“It’s a very nice way of farming – we don’t use any fertilisers or chemicals. We reseed regularly with a high clover mixture, that way we can provide our own nitrogen,” the pair say. “We turn this clover-rich grass into silage. It makes a good quality, high-protein diet for the animals [during winter, when they can’t graze], and the native breeds thrive on it.”
As a fourth-generation Cornish farmer literally named “Farmer Giles”, you may have formed an image of Giles in your mind already – but he’s a far cry from a tweed jacket. Giles loves photography, cooking, and is pretty nifty on an acoustic guitar.
Geoff is quite the character too. In his local community, he’s well known as a very active volunteer with the Looe Lions Club. Every year since the 1990s, Geoff has organised a duck race in the River Looe; an event that, as well as keeping the locals entertained, raises around £3700 for charities including Cornwall Air Ambulance, the RNLI and Water Aid. In 2015, Geoff was honoured for his tireless ducky efforts with a Points of Light Award (a government award that recognises inspirational volunteers) from then-Prime Minister David Cameron. Amazing work, Geoff.