With humble ambitions, 3 ex pro-surfers, Fergal Smith, Mitch Corbett and Matt Smith began a journey to what would soon become Moy Hill Farm, a community-supported farm that feeds local people through care, work, listening, learning, skill and cooperations.
Moy Hill is a different kind of farming, one that works with the nature of the land and thrives on people. We caught up with Fergal Smith the Farm Manager to discover the story of Moy Hill Farm and how their way of working may be the future of farming.
Words by Fergus Smith | Photography by Moy Hill Farm
Can you tell us about Moy Hill Farm?
I grew up on an organic vegetable farm, so Moy Hill Farm is something, I guess, I was always going to do someday, I just didn't know in what shape or when. Then in 2011 when the Fukushima nuclear disaster happened I was wondering what do I need to do to start helping the world we live in. From that day on I knew as clearly then as I do now what that was going to be
Moy Hill Farm is a working farm that is trying to be a solution to many of the problems society is facing today; food, water, trees, biodiversity, animals, housing, education, mental health, connection to nature. That's what we are trying to do, it is a big vision, but at the foundation, Moy Hill is a working farm that feeds people and provides for the local community.
Similar to us here at Millican, Moy Hill Farm has a ‘heart-open’ culture and welcomes people from all walks of life. What would they experience from working here?
What you mainly experience here is what it is like to work on a market garden. Yet, the other experience people have is the social side, with everyone who comes to work here. That is the real reason they like to work at Moy Hill Farm.
Could you tell us about one of your most memorable moment on the farm?
Wow, that is an impossible question! There are so many amazing moments from week to week. We've just had a guy here for two weeks, who worked his ass off every single day. When he was leaving he said it was the best experience of his life. That is just one moment from this week. The Farm Gathering we had last September was really special, it was the first time we had so many people come and stay on the farm. A great weekend and everyone said how much they loved it. Also, seeing the kids become expert gardeners already at ages 2 and 4, is pretty special too.
To create a better way of living for people and the earth, you have also established the charity Home Tree. Can you tell us more about Home Tree, and why it is important to the Moy Hill community?
Home Tree started, really, because I wanted to plant more trees! I began by planting trees on our friends' land, then when we had our own land and we wanted to be green with trees and we thought of the Home Tree charity. We could have looked to receive a grant for tree plantations, but we wanted to experiment with different agro-forestry methods. For me personally, I wanted to show farmers and land-owners how even with a piece of poor land, integrating trees will really help their land and farm. That is what excites me when our farm is full of trees and then we can start planting other people's lands. It is not just about planting trees, it needs to be thought through, working with the land-owner and integrating trees into the activities of their land. It is about getting the best result for everyone, using agro-forestry to really do the best by the land.
An open space where people can share skills, support and stories, Moy Hill Farm, seems to be powered by the community. What do you think is the future of this type of ’social farming’?
I think social farming is the only way to go. I call on all farmers and land-owners to think about ways they can involve people on their land.
People are crying out for connection to nature and land. Farm-land is private, you're not allowed on it. If we work with people we can have a great system of allowing access to the land to provide help to the farm and farmer. This is the future for so many reasons, it takes time to figure out and there will be problems, but don't let that stop a good idea. Farmers being isolated on their land is not a good idea but is the current model.
And finally, what does community mean to you?
Community to me just means life. It is how humans have always lived and it is how we should remember to live, with tricky times ahead. Stick together and we can do anything!