Looking over the wonderful mid-Devon hills is Elston Farm, a 160 acre regenerative beef and deer farm that is leading the way on a wide range of sustainable farming research projects covering silvopasture, animal health and welfare, net zero, soil health, soil carbon, dung beetles and bat acoustics.
After decades in intensive arable cultivation, Andy took a 180 degree turn on the farm in 2020, planting almost the entire farm with wildflower mixes, herbal leys and wild bird seed crops designed to feed songbirds through the winter months. Running in rows across many of the fields, Andy planted lines of trees, with shrubs like willow and hazel to feed the livestock, and bigger trees like oak and sweet chestnut to protect the cattle through hot summers and wet, cold winters. Already, the research is showing how this is bringing the farm back to life, with insects from ground beetles up to butterflies and moths bouncing back in huge numbers, and birds like kestrels, stonechats and linnets returning on mass.
Elston Farm is run by Andy Gray, a thirteenth generation Devon farmer who was brought up on a mixed Devon farm, rearing cattle, sheep and making and marketing Gray’s cider. When not farming or working on research, Andy manages M C Kelly butchers, which supplies Farm Widler beef, lamb, chicken and venison into our meat boxes and the hospitality industry throughout the southwest of England.