What Lies Behind

The story behind the Bear Pad

25th September 2013

This is an introduction to why I have opened the Bear Pad café/shop, where there is an emphasis on locally sourced food, using locally acquired skills  and meeting the needs of people who want to see their home patch within or close to the Bear Flat become once again a vibrant retail area.

My name is Cate Le Grice Mack, and until retiring in 2007 I was the proprietor of Norwood, an organic farm near the village of Norton St Philip, with a farm shop  and open to visitors. Farming was not my first love; in fact I came to it late in life – starting Norwood as a public facing farm open to visitors at the ripe old age of 40. Before that my career was in education, teaching geography and economics to secondary school students in inner city London.  In the late 1970s we moved our growing family to the South West and I developed a small-holding business on the outskirts of the city of Bath while I continued teaching part time.

From my early experiences of producing and selling food on a small scale I realised that consumers like us had become disconnected with the realities of food production.  I saw farming becoming more focused on either monoculture crop or livestock products, incurring a reliance on chemical and artificial inputs to sustain output.  As my personal experience developed, and I became more deeply involved with food and the environment, I grew to believe that this is inherently wrong-headed: it may produce more food for less cost in the short term, but in the long run will spell the end of our proud heritage of good farming husbandry.

The first animals we had kept on our smallholding were Shetland sheep, then a rare breed only occasionally seen in England, but a hardy and easily kept breed that turned out to be perfect for us amateurs. They produced delicious meat from grass, were small and easily handled (once properly fenced in that is), and I even learnt to shear them by hand. Little did I know then that this would eventually lead to a sizeable farm full of a variety of traditional breeds of sheep, cattle, pigs, goats and poultry, and a growing understanding that food is produced most efficiently through harnessing the strengths of our native grasses, crops and breeds.

In 1985, we moved to our “proper” farm at Norwood and by gradual degrees  established one of the UK’s first organic mixed farm enterprises open to a visiting public.
My vision was for a farming landscape that connects people, food and the environment.  I pictured farming with a sense of place and of community, respectful of the environment on which it depends. I envisaged a farm business that was able to draw real value to the farm itself through a supply chain within its control, that was able to evolve naturally and thrive on multiple strands of income.

I have written the story of the gradual learning process: not only about how to farm  (a challenge in itself) but also how to market the produce in a manner that linked customers with us as producers. And along the way I learned other lessons: how vital soil health is to a healthy crop; how important it is for animals to be content and unstressed; how wonderful is the natural system – the ecosystem – and how important it is in the development of a healthy farm. My writing is in a forthcoming book ‘Reflections of an Uncommon farmer’, some excerpts from which will be posted on this page of the café’s website over the coming months.

“I look forward to seeing your responses to this story.”

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  • Bear Flat, Bath

    Open Mon - Sat 8 am-5 pm
  • Tel: 01225 330255

    Hot food served until 4 pm
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