Hardwick’s farmland was converted to organic management in 1975 after only three decades of chemical use. As a result it is a biodiversity hotspot where the benefits of ecological management are clearly visible.
Beyond the sound animal husbandry and soil fertility practices of organic farming, we emphasise small scale and locally oriented farming and forestry. When produce is sold directly to consumers, rather than into global markets or supermarkets, it supports the local and regional economy, and promotes health, wellbeing, community, and connection to land.
We believe that Britain’s countryside can support many more rural livelihoods, as it did in by-gone years. We are sad to see the countryside increasingly dominated by commuter villages and second homes for city dwellers, making rents unaffordable and land unavailable. As well as depleting our precious natural resources, mechanised agriculture and forestry have also vastly reduced employment opportunities, one of the reasons why the majority of young people migrate to cities.
To challenge this trend we aim to maximise opportunities for sustainable rural livelihoods which provide an alternative to stressful urban employment, especially for young people struggling in today’s high rent, low wage economy. We provide affordable housing for rural working people, and for those running small businesses which utilise Hardwick’s land and resources creatively, and in line with our values. We give special importance to retaining and promoting artisan crafts and rural skills which are in balance with nature, such as horse logging, coppicing, hedge laying and wood working.
The beating heart of Hardwicks’ activities are the small businesses and those who created and manage them. For rural communities to thrive, we need to develop shared responsibility for the land and for each other, as well as a social life and a bit of fun! In this vein we have restored common land and community spaces where we can get together to share skills and enjoy each others’ company.
While we see Hardwick as an ‘ark’ of self reliance and resilience in a society increasingly alienated from land, we do not believe in isolating ourselves from engaging with wider global realities. Healing the humanitarian and environmental crisis, primarily caused by a combination of corporate greed and hegemonic ambition, requires a political, environmental and spiritual awakening, coupled to support for the disenfranchised of our society. Where possible, we aim to address this by raising ecological, political and spiritual awareness in the wider community. Connectedly, we are attempting to address – and redress – our own ancestor’s involvement in the practice of wealth building at the expense of indigenous peoples.