Non Food Crops are grown for use in industry, pharmaceuticals, neutraceuticals, personal care products and bio-fuels, as opposed to conventional food production.
The Government has been encouraging farmers to grow Non Food Crops although to date the response of British farmers has been slow.
Since Spring 2003, the farm has been growing Non Food Crops under contract for Cargills, Fairking and Technology Crops, as well as trialling additional Non Food Crops. Lees Court Crops will be extracting the oils from some of these Non Food Crops using a specialist extraction process called Super Critical CO2 to provide a toxin-free oil. It will be the first time that this method of extraction has been used in Britain on some of these crops.
This passion for Non Food Crops has enabled The Countess Sondes to act as an Agricultural Advisor to the United Nations Office of Partnerships (UNOP). UNOP was created around Ted Turner’s billion dollar gift to the United Nations. This was a remarkable experience which gave The Countess Sondes a direct insight into the issues effecting global agriculture. The Countess Sondes believes that the introduction of Non Food Crops could provide additional opportunities for farmers and create important new revenue streams. She hopes the farm will be an example of how embracing change in farming can lead to success and inspire others to follow.
The Lees Court Estate is at the forefront of the development of agronomy techniques for the production of certain innovative Non Food Crops. The Estate has commissioned trials through Syngenta to overcome agronomic issues associated with growing some of these innovative crops where there has been little or no previous field scale experience.
In Spring 2012, a poly tunnel was built at Lees Court Farm to enable the controlled growing of trial crops. These have included Echium Amoemum, Echium Asperrimum, Thalictrum Aquilegifolium, Thalictrum Dasycarpum and various Bicorns. The growing conditions will be monitored along with the viability of the crops to be grown on a larger scale in an open field and the methods of harvesting. The various seeds will be collected and the oils analysed.