Occombe Farm, situated on the edge of Paignton, holds the fundamental belief that what we eat shapes our countryside. Despite the fact the 150 acre organic farm was originally destined to be a golf course, it was founded by the Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust in 2006.
Today the farm harvests eco-friendly produce, as well as providing excellent educational facilities. Occombe is thought to mean the valley of oaks, and it is certainly worth wandering through the melange of pasture, wet meadows and woodland to see just where your food has come from. The farm has remained unimproved since World War II, and harbours a Site of Special Scientific Interest, meaning that the species and habitats within the land are securely protected.
The traditional farm is home to an award-winning café and farm shop. Customers are invited to enjoy local produce, such as naturally reared meat from the Ruby Red Devon Cattle, or salads from the organic garden. The Occombe Breakfast is particularly popular, as well as the Summer Sunday BBQ’s and the old favourite: cream tea. Gribble’s Butchery is also on site selling local produce.
One of the standout points for the farm is that you are encouraged to forge your own gourmet journey. The farm offers copious amounts of cookery workshops and tours that allow you to liberate the greenfingers within. Rake and bake days enable visitors to get down to some gardening and then bake their findings, whilst the cookery school enlists Michelin star chefs to teach you how to make anything from bread to cider.
If you have the time to make a full day of Occombe, there is the opportunity to embark upon a Seafood Adventure. After a morning of mackerel fishing, complete with commentary on the coastal landscape from a member of the Trust, you will be able to cook your catch back at the farm. The intrinsic relationship between farming and food at Occombe, is something they want to share.
If not one for cookery, a glimpse into the natural world could not be easier than at Occombe. The 2km nature trail runs through the farmland, where you can also take a look at the various gardens including the forest garden, kitchen garden and apple orchard.
The walk is open all year round, with free entry and easy access. As you will be starting your stroll at the Visitor Centre, you have the chance to see exactly what the farm is working towards. As well as screens streaming live images of the animals around the farm, there is an energy bicycle on which you can experiment just how much energy is needed to illuminate certain bulbs.
As the Community Supported Agricultural scheme demonstrates, sustainability and a strong relationship between farmer and customer is paramount for Occombe. Brass rubbings, audio guides and interactive displays are just some of the other gems you will find at the centre.
The website, http://www.occombefarm.org.uk/, has a newsfeed that publicises upcoming events such as the Beer Festival or even the arrival of their new piglets. Volunteer Days are also advertised on their blog; http://www.occombe.blogspot.co.uk/.
Whether it is a demonstration in the WW2 allotment, a glimpse at a barn owl or a visit to the straw bale education centre that tempts you, there is little chance that you will come away from Occombe without having learned something about the real farming world.