Each month we’ll be speaking with a local business owner who is similarly committed to support people in and around Deddington in living greener lives. In January, we sat down with North Aston Farms!
Who are you and what do you do?
We are James and Vicky and we own North Aston Farms, an organic and regenerative farm just south of Deddington Brook, east of the main road to Oxford. The farm is home to North Aston Dairy, which we run with a small team. Between us, we milk 16 cows every morning and evening, and then pasteurise and bottle most of it, turning the rest into natural set yoghurt and delicious ice cream. We also retail a small amount of pasture-fed beef and lamb grown on the farm. All our dairy produce is sold to the local community mainly via our weekly delivery rounds in Deddington, Somerton, The Astons, Lower and Upper Heyford, Duns Tew and Wolvercote. We also have a place for customers to collect pre-ordered produce here on the farm. Since 1998, the farm has also been the home of North Aston Organics, a small-scale vegetable grower and box scheme, although this is run independently.
How do you help local people to live greener lifestyles?
At North Aston Farms, we are firmly committed to growing nourishing and nutrient-dense food in a way that not only sustains the land but heals and improves it. Farmed “conventionally” for several decades, the land saw a drastic decline in its wildlife population, which led to the decision in the 1980s to transition the entire farm back to an organic, nature-friendly system. Ever since, we’ve been working tirelessly to restore the diversity of flora and fauna and plant miles of native hedgerows and trees around the farm. We have been certified fully organic by the Soil Association since 1992.
In 2022, we began our journey into regenerative farming, actively rejuvenating our soils and pastures, sequestering atmospheric carbon back into the ground, and helping to restore defunct water and nutrient cycles. The first step on this journey was our move to adaptive multi-paddock grazing of our beef and dairy cattle. Historically, our cattle have been put in a field and left there until all the grass has been eaten, before being moved into a new field. As soon as the grass has regrown a little bit, the animals are brought back to graze it down again. While this makes management much simpler, it results in overgrazing of the pasture plants which are never allowed to recover properly and express their full physiology. This results in stunted pastures with little plant diversity, as well as soils that can’t absorb and store water, and short roots that can’t access nutrients held deep underground. In contrast, our new grazing system means that our cows are moved to fresh pasture every day and the land behind them is left to recover for many months before the cattle return. This allows plants and soil life to flourish, while capturing and storing a vast amount of carbon from the atmosphere and giving the wildlife on the farm a far richer grassland ecosystem in which to live and breed.
Energy & Resource Efficiency
Since its inception in 2006, North Aston Dairy has aimed to provide an affordable, sustainable, and delicious alternative to the industrially-produced, homogeneous milk you find in supermarkets. We still only serve a handful of nearby villages, and all our milk is produced right here on the farm. All of the dairy products we supply (milk, cream, yoghurt, and ice cream) come in glass bottles and jars, which are washed and returned to us by our customers for sanitisation and re-use. We currently re-use 99% of them, and assume the rest up in household recycling bins!
The majority of our produce is delivered by us directly to our customers on our weekly milk rounds, saving a huge number of short car journeys that would take place if all our customers collected from us instead. We also deliver bread from our friends at Forge House Bakery to reduce car journeys in the area even further. In 2021, we invested in an electric van which now does about half of our deliveries, and we are currently investigating the addition of some solar panels to one of our barns so we can charge it straight from the sun! We will hopefully be in a position to invest in another slightly larger van in the not-too-distant future to deliver the rest of the milk.
By buying from us, not only do our loyal customers have easy access to delicious and healthy food at an affordable price, they also directly support our work to regenerate the health of the soil we all depend upon while helping the local food system to survive and thrive.
We are proud to be playing a very small part in solving the climate and biodiversity crisis, which can’t be done without cows, and so the more support we can get to spread the word about our regenerative farming methods, the better.
We will be at the Eco Fair in Deddington Church on March 18th explaining our farming approach in more detail, and we hope to see you there!
How can DEN members buy your products?
Every Tuesday morning (between 6am and 9am), we deliver to around 50 customers in Deddington. We sell whole and part-skimmed milk, cream, natural set yoghurt, ice cream, beef, rose veal and lamb – as well as Forge House sourdough bread and Haresfield Farm organic eggs. Payment is made via bank transfer at the end of every month when we send you your invoice and newsletter. To find out more about joining the weekly delivery round, please click here. For people that live outside our delivery area but want a regular order, we also have a collection point on the farm for pre-ordered produce.
Our ice cream and meat is available to buy online through our new website (www.northastonfarms.co.uk) for collection from the farm or delivery within 15 miles on orders above £35.
We also have a stall at the Deddington Farmer’s Market on the 4th Saturday of each month. You can usually find us in front of the bus stop on Hudson Street. We also supply a few local independent farm shops and produce stores, including Fenemore Farms in Clifton.