Research projects

Organic at the Heart

Contract Period : 01/07/2021 - 30/06/2023

Main Funder : Charitable Trusts and ORC Supporters

ORC Staff Contact : Charlotte Bickler

The Organic at the Heart project aims to build communities around environmentally friendly farming through the development and demonstration of local hubs that embody the Organic Principles of Health, Ecology, Fairness and Care.

Project Aims:

Food is only sustainable if it’s produced in harmony with nature, protecting wildlife and the environment.  It is our hope that as a result of this project:

  • More farmers are inspired to transition from conventional to organic and agroecological farming.
  • Connections between farmers and local food businesses will be improved, leading to the development of regional relationships and food networks.
  • Communities will have improved access to healthy food that’s produced in an ethical and sustainable way and consumer demand will grow.

Working with farmers to identify their biggest problems and potential solutions, we will use research to test how the application of organic principles can improve productivity, efficiently use natural resources and enhance our natural environment. Local on-farm workshops will be held to demonstrate regional food and farming initiatives and develop food and farming networks.

We know that peer-to-peer exchange is a valuable tool when introducing farmers to innovative practices that solve problems. Building relationships with local food businesses to develop short supply chains is also key to achieving our aim to support sustainable food and farming practices. Farmers will also have the opportunity to welcome and connect local communities to real-life farming and the countryside. Working together, we will develop regional initiatives whilst exploring success factors for wider application.

Current progress highlights:

The project is now well underway with much of our planning complete – we have established frameworks for the project and officially launched it with a workshop at the Northern Real Farming Conference this month (December 2021). We are recruiting five farm hubs across English regions, and once these are in place we will work with local networks to:

  • Develop a plan for setting-up community-led food networks around each of the farms.
  • Deliver a one-year programme of farmer-led innovation and education such as on-farm demonstrations, field labs and open farm days.
  • Expand the project beyond the five farms and build a collaborative network of healthy farms and communities that are naturally strong and resilient.

The next milestone is to finalise the five farms that will participate in the project.

Project leader and partners:

We aim to develop the Organic at the Heart project as a collaboration between pioneering farmers and food businesses from across England and our research and knowledge exchange team. Together we will plan and deliver place-based action research and knowledge exchange to inspire change at a community level.

All sources of funding:

Thank you to everyone who supported out fundraising appeal for the Organic at the Heart project – we will keep you updated directly as the project develops.

Other Web Links:

This project was developed following on from a workshop at the Northern Real Farming Conference (2020). You can watch a recording of the session here.

ORC Team involved with this project

Knowledge Exchange and Policy Manager