The Peasant Evolution Producers' Co-Operative

Co-Operative Members: Ourganics

Pat Bowcock,
Litton Lane,
Litton Cheney,
Dorset
DT2 9DH,
tel 01308 482455

Ourganics is a demonstration, permaculture lifestyle and debt-free business. We grow salad, flowers, herbs, vegetables and willow. We host workshops, team days and various courses.

PAT'S STORY

"On a June day ten years ago at 10.30am I walked into a five acre pony paddock. I was 48 and my long-awaited dream to live on a piece of land, lower my imprint on the planet and create a debt-free, self-sustaining business was about to begin. Ourganics came into being that day - and so did I. I had never grown produce commercially, run my own business or built more than a den when I was seven, and certainly knew very little about wind and sun energy. I had, however, over the past ten years, studied permaculture and done many land-based weekend courses - like dry stone walling, hedge laying, pond-digging and so on.

The field had been a pony paddock for the previous eight years and had six tumbledown stables, full of stuff. The first weekend I joined the Soil Association, got a skip which I filled very quickly, and moved a 50 caravan onto the site.

I wanted to create a lifestyle based on the permaculture ethics, which really made sense to me in a world that was increasingly not making sense. The three ethics that I really took to heart were Peoplecare, Landcare and Fairshare. By simplifying my life and letting go of status and belongings I have begun to discover the amazing potential of human beings.

I grow food, chop wood, cook over an open fire, collect water, share food with others, use a compost loo and live in a simple building with basic material possessions using energy directly from the wind and sun. I have learned to trust that all my needs will always be perfectly met - though not always in the way I expect.

I had come from a secure job and a comfortable house with electricity and hot and cold running water. That first night in the caravan when I lit a candle, I realised all that had gone. I sat in the silence of the field with Molly, my springer spaniel. It was then that I suddenly remembered that I was scared of the dark and hadn't brought a torch. I did, however, have an amazing sense of peace and even the odds seemed stacked against me, I couldn't keep the smile off my face or wait for the next day to begin.

Two great assets of the field are water and clay. We had to make all the soil that we now have. We dragged seaweed from the beach after storms, collected leaves from the lanes and woods, begged organic animal manure and used bales and bales of straw and hay. We continue to improve the soil mulching (no digging) with these materials and adding rich compost made in 15 wormeries built from old tyres.

Over the next few years, with loads of generous support and help, I put up a 27-metre polytunnel, dug out two ponds, created a flood-garden and reinstated the irrigation system that had been used in the valley for hundreds of years. I made 42 raised beds and five keyhole dome gardens, planted fruit trees and currant bushes and started a two-acre woodland at the bottom of the field. Everything grew amazingly well and soon I sold the first produce locally and started making a small amount of money. I realised I had become a commercial grower.

In 2003 we took down one of the stables that was falling down and with the help of many people, replaced it with Our Shed!! The building is timber-framed, very well insulated and has a tin roof to collect the rainwater. The 50 square metres that I moved into felt huge after living in a caravan for years. That winter I don't know who was more relieved to have the warmth and space - Molly the dog or me.

The following spring I had a visit from a Planning Officer and decided it was time to apply for retrospective planning permission. I hadn't applied before as I felt it would be hard for my vision and dream to be understood until it could be seen in practice. I had amazing support and because I showed I had a viable need to stay on the land to run the project I was given a temporary five-year personal planning permission - this has recently been converted to a permanent resident planning permission in my name only for the rest of my life.

More than 2000 people visited the field last year on courses, day visits or as helpers. We produce food for local people and visitors but the main purpose of Ourganics is to be a place of inspiration and learning.

Pat from Ourganics in the polytunnel