Iain Tolhurst Organic Consultancy
Member of the Institute of Organic Training and Advice.
Delivering specialist organic advice to farmers and growers since 1985
I have been working part time as an organic consultant since 1982, having been a practising organic producer since 1976. My main area of expertise is with horticulture, vegetable box schemes and stock-free systems. I have visited over 1000 farms to advise on all aspects of organic conversion and production systems both in the UK and overseas.
I have advised in Albania, California, Guyana, Ireland, Iceland, Kosovo, Morocco, Mozambique and Rep. of Moldova. I also work with various organisations in the UK such as Horticultural Research International, (Wellesbourne and E.Malling) Henry Doubleday Research Association, Elm Farm Research Centre, Plunkett Foundation and Trans Rural Trust. I also have annual contracts with several farmers.
I am the first horticultural member to be accepted by IOTA.
This can be in several forms. Some will be based at your farm, such as initial feasibility studies and formative conversion planning. Other components I may complete in my office and forward to you.
1. Visit to my farm in South Oxfordshire
For many people this is an excellent introduction to how an organic system operates. Individual consultations are possible or, for a more cost effective visit, you may bring other people with you. We have been growing organically on this site since 1987 and are able to demonstrate:
- Stockless field vegetables on 17 acres, an intensive rotation with widespread use of long and short-term green manures.
- Intensive garden crops in a 2 acre Victorian walled garden, again utilising intensive green manures and own produced composts.
- Out-of-season production in 17,000 sq feet of tunnels and glasshouse utilising our own vegetable compost.
- Own-plant propagation facilities in our dedicated greenhouse producing over 75,000 plants per year.
- Direct marketing. All our produce is sold through our own box scheme distribution round (400 customers weekly).
- Vegetable composting for small-scale users.
2. On farm advice
I will visit you on your farm to deliver advice tailored to your personal situation.
- Farm inspection to assess the feasibility of the practical and financial implications of an organic conversion.
- Discuss with you the various options for marketing.
- Identify where any possible grant-aid may be appropriate.
- Conversion planning - designing your conversion, rotations, weed control, pest/disease management, fertility building, and soil management and cropping plans.
3. Office based advice
Once I have visited your farm and discussed your various ideas and options, I will be able to complete much of the work from my office:
- Report on the feasibility of converting your farm to an organic system.
- Draw up a conversion plan, to include rotations, weed control, pest/disease management, fertility building, soil management and cropping plans.
- Financial study, to assess the financial implications.
- Machinery/equipment list, particularly useful to those farmers who may be embarking on a new diversification.
- Detailed cropping plans tailored to your proposed markets.
- Supply names and addresses of materials, services and organisations that you will find useful.
- Telephone service for clients. (This is something that people find invaluable.)
Seminars and presentations
I have extensive experience in designing and delivering seminars on the practice of organic production. These seminars will often take the form of a workshop, using participative training techniques. Where appropriate the seminar can be linked with outdoor activities such as a farm walk or demonstration. I am able to do this through a translator if necessary.
I also make presentations at conferences and seminars covering the practice and policy of a range of organic subjects.