Hackney farmer makes his pitch in Dalston

Nigel Akehurst in Kingsland High St Dalston London E8 180414 © david.altheer@gmail.com

WHEN YOU’RE a son of the soil living in the heart of hipster London, your mind occasionally turns to the turn of the sod, the mew of the lamb, the call of the carrion crow… all the down-to-earth aspects of country life.

But you have to make a living and in Dalston farming is not an option.

Economics graduate Nigel Akehurst, who springs from ancestral acres in East Sussex – that’s “Gramps” pictured below – thinks he has reconciled both strands.

The 34-year-old former freelance marketer has launched a website, Indie Farmer, to showcase small-scale independent farmers and artisan-food producers to an urban audience.

He told Loving Dalston: “I’ve picked up mostly on local food businesses and producers, although I’ve also covered a few others, such as Hook and Son, which sells raw milk in Stoke Newington farmers’ market. Hook and Son happen to be neighbours of my parents.

“Indie Farmer combines my passion for photography with my interest in where food comes from.”

The Hackney farmer certainly knows where food comes from. When Loving Dalston interviewed him, he was visiting his parents on their Herstmonceux

© Nigel Akehurst
Easy rider: Herbert Akehurst at Reedlands, his farm in Ashburnham, Sussex, with cart-horses Boxer and Prince, in the 1930s. Picture supplied by Nigel Akehurst

farm and had just “helped with a few odd jobs”: moving cattle gates around and bottle-feeding lambs. He added: “Most of the 220-plus ewes and lambs are out to grass.

His parents own 18 hectares (45 acres), rent a second farm of 160 hectares near by and have a wildlife  block in the Pevensey marshes near by.

His girlfriend lives in the area and a few weeks earlier when he previously visited his parents it was a different story.

Akehurst said: “Twenty to 30 ewes were lambing down a day, and I helped to lamb them down, penned ewes with their new-born lambs, connected them up, tubed the the lambs that weren’t able to suck, ringed them – tails and balls – and numbered them.”

It sounds a long way from the “town”, as farmers call anywhere without mud, bleating or mooing. But back among the hustle of Kingsland Road, Akehurst is busy at a computer as he prepares a pitch for crowd-funding. Akehurst has also got himself appointed a Jamie Oliver food ambassador, which means he must publicise healthy food, especially to young people. It happens also to fit perfectly with the Indie Farmer venture.

© Nigel Akehurst
Easier rider: Fred Akehurst in Sussex, 1967

This month, June 2014, he will return for a few weeks to the back blocks of southern England, to find material for his site on, as he puts it, an “awareness-raising scooter road trip”.

It’s doubtful that his father would have used such terminology in 1967. New times, new talk.

David Altheer O60614 

* Akehurst is now scooting around southern England to find small farmers interested in his scheme. More at his crowd-funding page.

* Backstory: Two foodie farmers. Boy detail: the motorbike at right is a 1962 AJS Sapphire 250

* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink, a reader service rare among websites. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained.

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