Fancy a herbal remedy to lift a dull weekend? The Organic Herb Company’s Festival and Open Day is on Saturday June 30 in Milverton. The company is celebrating 30 years in business and it’s still a well-kept secret for most of us. How many locals are aware that the UK’s leading supplier of organic herbs is found up a lane and tucked into the sleepy slopes of West Somerset farmland?
Starting at 12.30pm you’ll find all kinds of activities going on – crafts’ stalls, a children’s area and entertainers, a wildlife area, art exhibition and demonstrations of chainsaw-carving and stone-sculpting – and lots more. You can have a go at juggling or pottery, handling a bird of prey or flying on a trapeze. And there’s lots of food and drink available – organic naturally – and a programme of talks from experts in the fields of sustainability and herbal medicine. Then there’s evening entertainment with live bands, a ceildh and DJ’s from 7.30pm to round off the day.
Founded by Mike Brooks, initially in the Thames Valley and then in Milverton when more land was needed, the company trades in more than just herbs for culinary purposes and in foods; its products are used in teas and beverages, in herbal medicines and in cosmetics. Given Mike Brooks’ pioneering zeal in championing organic horticulture and ethical trading, it’s not surprising to learn that his products meet the highest standards in the market and are used by, amongst others, Marks and Spencer, Neal’s Yard and Tesco under the Pukka Teas label, as well as in branded foods such as farmers’ sausages.
But how does a two and a half acre herb field in Somerset manage to sustain a business trading 600 tons of herbs annually, some of them exotic and selling at £5,000 a kilo? The answer is through its network of trading partners – 3000 farms in 50 countries, all of them employing strict organic farming methods, carefully analysed to ensure quality. It’s still surprising, though, to learn that one ton of herbs can be harvested in a day from the Somerset field, much of it picked by teams of ‘wwoofers’, who volunteer at harvest time to learn skills in organic herbiculture through World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.
The company has 28 employees – all locals – and a couple of unpaid helpers too: eight rescued badgers keep down the slugs and hives of bees help in propagation, although the current unstable and unseasonal weather has made the bees ‘very unhappy’ apparently.
The Festival promises to be a really wonderful day out for adults and children alike and act as a fitting celebration for a company doing so much in the fields of world-wide organic horticulture and sustainability. You’ll have fun and maybe learn a great deal too. It deserves to be successful. Day tickets are £5.00 – children under 16 are free – and evening tickets £10.00. A combined ticket booked in advance saves you £5.00. All profits go to two charities – Balwadi, a small pre-school in Goa and Purple Field Productions which creates educational and humanitarian films.
Words & images: Gill Paltridge
Details can be found from festival@organicherbtrading