Healthy soil is the foundation of all farming. By focusing on soil life, organic practices create balanced agroecosystems that benefit both farmers and the environment.
One of the early pioneers of organic agriculture was Lady Evelyn Barbara Balfour. Lady Eve Balfour was a visionary farmer, educator, and organic farming advocate who transformed attitudes toward sustainable agriculture.
Born in 1898 into a prominent political family, Balfour defied norms by pursuing her passion for agriculture. She graduated from an agricultural college and purchased Haughley Green Farm, a derelict 93-acre farm in Suffolk, England in 1939. It was here that Balfour conducted the first long-term scientific comparisons of organic and chemical farming. Balfour conducted side-by-side trials comparing organic and conventional farming methods. Her groundbreaking research demonstrated that organic methods could match conventional yields while enhancing soil fertility and the nutritional value of foods.
Balfour documented her findings in her influential book “The Living Soil”, published in 1943. Her research demonstrated the environmental and economic benefits of organic practices, and she became a leading advocate for sustainable agriculture. The book sparked a movement by presenting organic agriculture not just as an abstract philosophy but as a viable, productive farming system grounded in science. Balfour went on to co-found The Soil Association, which drove the adoption of organic practices. Thanks to her tireless advocacy, she became known as the mother of the organic movement
The principles championed by organic farming pioneers like Lady Eve Balfour are needed now more than ever. With a growing world population and increasing environmental pressures, sustainably nurturing our living soils is imperative. By leveraging nature’s wisdom, organic practices offer a path toward productive agriculture that replenishes the earth for future generations.
Although organic farming was once dismissed as fringe, it’s values have been widely endorsed by the fast-growing regenerative farming movement. This movement holds tremendous potential to create balanced, resilient farming systems. Just as Lady Balfour envisioned with her organic methods, regenerative methods are poised to sustain humanity while restoring health to the planet that nourishes us all.
Meanwhile, her personal life was as fascinating as her agricultural life. She lived in a run-down farmhouse with her female partner, played saxophone in a jazz band, and co-authored a series of best-selling crime novels.