More than you might think… William Rose and his manager Duncan Hepburn farm at Mid Coul, around 2,755 acres of organic land near the southern shore of the Moray Firth in north-east Scotland.
Mid Coul has a diverse output, one element of which is the production of organic barley for Bruichladdich but the nature of organic farming demands that crops be rotated to maintain, and indeed enhance, the quality of the soil. The barley has to take its turn in a fascinating cycle.
The fields grow different crops each year for up to seven years including the organic barley, organic oats, organic beans (which are dried and made into a protein feed for cattle) and three seasons of grass for feeding organic herds of cattle and sheep.
And yes, there are also acres of beautiful organic carrots for the country’s best known supermarkets. We can personally attest to the superb quality of these vegetables because we tried some in the fields, wiping off the rich organic soil on the leaves before munching on the spot. Truly delicious.
The organically raised cattle and sheep are not able to eat all the rich output from the land under grass at Mid Coul, so the surplus is laid down as silage which will be used as ‘fuel’ in a one megawatt anaerobic digestion plant that is currently being built. That will be commissioned next year.
Just in case that is not enough diversity for one farm, there is also a market garden growing just about every variety of vegetable you can think of. They are presented in a self-service ‘Farm Shop’ on the side of the road – customers just leave their money in the honesty box provided….
Organic farming personifies the Bruichladdich way. This is land and dram united. There was a time of course, when all farming was organic, when no-one had any need to be concerned about the effects of organophosphate insecticides or petrochemical based superfertilizers on which modern agricultural outputs have come to rely. William however,is unequivocal: “”We are very passionate about organic farming, working with nature and wildlife, and of course caring for our environment. We believe sustainable farming is the only way forward, to help ensure our children have a bright future.”
The long-term effects of chemical inputs, the ‘green revolution’, on our health and wellbeing will be debated for years to come, but there are some things that are simply beyond dispute. The first is the positive effect organic farming has on biodiversity. Mid Coul teems with variety and life, with birds, wildflowers and insects of all types.
A second is the quality of spirit we produce from organic barley at Bruichladdich. You might dispute whether it is better than spirit from conventionally grown grain, but it would be difficult to claim that it makes no difference. The difference in the glass is striking. And fascinating. At Bruichladdich, we aim to make the most thought provoking spirits in the world, and our organic work with William and Duncan at Mid Coul is an essential part of that.
With thanks to Mark Kinsman of Bairds Malt in Inverness