Mehr Fardoonji owns Oakcroft Organic Gardens in Malpas, Cheshire. Her deeply held ethos and views around environmental and social issues is a shining beacon for us all. Her beliefs and methods are a step in the right direction to reverse the bio-diversity crisis we face in the world today.
As a Trustee of the Soil Association Land Trust, Mehr has pledged her gardens to this important organisation in the form of a legacy but she is now actively seeking a passionate tenant to take over her life’s work to manage the organic market garden with sensitivity and purpose. Mehr and her inspiring organic market garden can be seen in a short film here: https://vimeo.com/349015256
In her 20s Mehr worked for six years in the Gandhi movement, walking to collect land for the landless as part of Vinoba Bhave’s land gift movement. In India, she learnt about Organic Growing from books in the library at the Gandhi Ashram. She learnt and helped build her own Devonshire Cob cottage and began to grow organic vegetables on one acre of land. Mehr returned to the UK in 1959 and in 1962 she set up Oakcroft as one of the earliest certified organic gardens in the UK. Mehr still lives there to this day.
The market garden comprises 2.49 acres or thereabouts of a fertile medium loam soil, gently sloping to the south. The buildings comprise: One three bay Dutch barn measuring 13.7m (45ft) x 9.14m (30ft) steel framed with corrugated metal sheeting and open to the north ( one bay to be retained for owner to park car) Two timber mobile glasshouses measuring 15m (50ft) x 3.6m (12ft) and 21m (70ft) x 6.10m (20ft) respectively One static propagating house measuring 6.10m (20ft) x 3.65m (12ft) A useful concrete block building with tiled roof providing a tool, and potting area, machinery store plus storage area measuring 16m (52ft) x 6m (20ft).
The garden includes a self-contained maisonette with commanding views of nature and the Shropshire hills.
Mehr expects her successor to not consume meat and fish, or smoke, on the site.
Born in Lahore in 1930, Mehr grew up in Multan, India (now Pakistan). At the age of seven she came to Manchester with her mother and brother (her father passed away when she was five). After completing a degree at the London School of Economics she returned taking seven months to reach India by land, aged 23. While working at the land-gift (Bhoodan) movement, inspired by Ghandi, she developed the belief that land was the foundation of life and that organic farming was the only way to sustain the health and wellbeing of the land and its people.
Mehr came back to England in 1959, where her brother was working as a civil engineer. Now 29, Mehr travelled across England, working at market gardens as a way to develop her skills and experience. In 1962, her brother bought a piece of land, which was to become the Oakcroft Organic Garden. The organic market garden became her livelihood; she sold her produce at Chester Market and other local farmers’ markets until 2006. Sadly, by this time she was no longer able to maintain the land and since then it has been looked after by a variety of helpers. Mehr is now looking for a successor who is as enthusiastic and committed to running the market garden in a sustainable and successful way for future generations to come.
Mehr explains the simple philosophy she lives by, which brings her internal riches, “We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever; the goal is to create something that will.”
“I have always been different and I am happy with the way I am. I have travelled extensively, far and wide, so much that at times I feel that I belong to nowhere…or I belong to everywhere. I am a citizen of the world,” she smiles.
Prospective tenants should contact Sue Steer of Steer Ethelston Rural Ltd, [email protected] | 01477 532188 | 07729 927777 | www.steerethelston.co.uk |The Estate Office, Deer Park Farm, Kermincham, Crewe, Cheshire CW4 8DX
For further information please visit: https://www.oakcroft.org.uk. A poster advertising the site has been created, which can be viewed on the Oakcroft website link above.
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29 July 2019