Denbigh girls’ school that grows its own food produces a bumper crop

A top independent girls’ school is not just producing a bumper crop of exam results – it’s also producing over 1,000 tons of potatoes, enough for five million bags of chips.

That’s because Howells School in Denbigh is not only a seat of learning but of farming too.

Girls from all over the world are not the only boarders at the school – there are flocks of Jacob sheep and alpacas and the beginnings of a herd of Highland cattle.

And it’s not just young minds that are flourishing at the 153-year-old school, but crops of potatoes, winter turnips, corn and hay.

They’ve all got their parts to play in the life of the school, a registered charity, according to Howells School Academic Principal Emma Jones.

She said: “As well as the valuable economic benefit they bring to the school, the farm also contributes educationally, culturally and socially.

“Many of our girls come here from big cities, from places like Tokyo, the home of our Prime Warden (Head Girl), Kotoe Kuroda, Seoul, Milan, Madrid and London, and they are just not used to seeing farming and farm animals up close.

“It’s important that they see and understand that the countryside isn’t just a place that’s pretty with green fields and trees and mountains but that it’s a place where people live and work and farm.”

The economic benefits to the school of the 100 acres of Goblin Farm are also significant.

The farm took its name from the Goblin Tower, part of the medieval castle of Denbigh, which still stands sentinel above the school fields.

The original Goblin Farm stood where Stanley House, one of the school boarding houses, now stands but the present farmhouse is still the hub of a thriving business which contributes to school funds.

There are 22 sheep and six alpacas which are big favourites with the girls and they will produce wool to revive the school’s traditions of spinning and weaving and School Trustee Robbie Locke said: “The girls love them and it’s a good way for them to relate to animals.

“It also gives them an understanding of livestock farming which is integral to the local way of life.

“The Jacob sheep are actually a registered flock which used to belong to Chris Goffey who used to present Top Gear on BBC. He lived near Oxford and advertised them for sale and we bought them.

“We have also begun to make much more positive use of the land which the school owns which was formerly pasture and had been for more than 50 years and so had become quite sterile.

“We’ve introduced a crop cycle aimed at improving the soil and we began with potatoes because that entails tilling down deeper so we brought in machines and did it properly and took out  a lot of stones which we put down in the tractor tracks.

“We brought in 16 tractors and in two days we put down 60 acres of seed potatoes – at one stage we had £2 million worth of machinery here working on the land.”

The Olympics certainly had a positive effect on the school’s economy, according to Mr Locke, with demand for chips pushing up the price of potatoes by £70 a ton and with Howells fields producing 18 tons of potatoes an acre, that added up to nearly two and a half million pounds of potatoes or over five million portions of chips.

He said: “Some of those potatoes have also found their way into the kitchens at Howells so it has worked well for us and it shows how the farm is helping the school in so many ways.

“We’re also growing winter barley and winter corn which will help provide straw for the horses in the stables and is environmentally friendly and we also produce all our own hay for the stables as

Related Posts with Thumbnails