Life in the slow lane: horse-drawn farming

As agriculture becomes ever more reliant on technology, horse-drawn farming seems consigned to a bygone age. But working with horses reduces the reliance on fossil fuels, cuts soil compaction, and can be economically viable on a small scale, writes Eleanor Paddock, from her farm in the shadow of Dartmoor using real horse power

In an age when most people probably think of horse-drawn farming as a charming bygone, and farming is becoming increasingly mechanised, in our small corner of Devon we’re working hard to make sure that a new generation of farmers has access to the traditional skills of working horses.

We manage our 35-acre farm using a team of 20 mixed breed horses – and no tractors. Most of our horses are taken out of the food chain, where they are destined to go to slaughter, and given a new lease of life as working animals. They pull a wide variety of antique and modern machinery, ploughing, cultivating, drilling, hoeing and ultimately bringing in the harvest from our two acres of organic vegetables and oats. Last year they made more than 700 conventional small bales using an Amish hitch cart without a drop of fuel. The cart uses ground drive, so when the horses walk at three and a half miles an hour, it produces 540 rpm out of the prop shaft, enabling us to power normal tractor machinery. So, no fossil fuels are required!

Business is on the up as more people look for solutions for the future of farming

We have now been open for nearly 18 months, providing tuition and work animals to small farmers who have a real interest in sustainability, or those who just want to have a go. Business is on the up as more people look for solutions for the future of farming – including looking back to how things used to be done.

So why would anybody give up their comfy tractor seat to take on this kind of challenge? It allows small…

Sasha Harriet

Sasha Harriet

As content editor, I get to do what I love everyday. Tweet, share and promote the best content our tools find on a daily basis.

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Sasha Harriet

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