HELEN BROWNING, aged 32, runs 1,350-acre Eastbrook Farm, which is on the Wiltshire Downs near Swindon. By any standards this is a large farm, part arable, part dairy and part meat producing. But Ms Browning runs it to strictly organic standards.

The farm's two dairy herds total about 270 cows which, as well as milk, produce 200 calves a year. These will be bred with Aberdeen Angus and Hereford cattle to produce beef. The farm also has 650 ewes, 180 pigs of various breeds, and 600 laying hens. The resulting beef, lamb, pork, bacon and eggs are sold either by mail-order or at Helen's Organic Farm Shop in Shrivenham.

'Most of our bread-and-butter customers are locals, and they buy our meat not because it's organic but because it's great meat,' Ms Browning says. 'We are asking for a premium and you can't expect people to pay that unless the meat is the best-tasting and the best-presented.'

Ms Browning's pigs are a case in point. 'There is a stark difference in flavour between our pork and the tasteless pork that you generally buy. It starts with the breed - we've chosen British Saddlebacks. They always have grass, and we have rich clover pasture which provides natural nitrogen. It is highly digestible and rich in trace elements. It seems to give the meat a particularly good flavour, succulence and tenderness.

'Unlike non-organic pigs, ours are outside all year, and are weaned from their mothers much later - eight instead of three weeks. Once weaned, they are out rooting around in grass, their diet supplemented with hay and other forage in winter, which definitely enhances the flavour.

'They have loads of space, so they get lots of exercise and we don't need to go in for any of the tail-docking and tooth-clipping which are often considered necessary in intensive systems where the pigs fight.

'We don't have to medicate animals routinely, either, because they are not kept in conditions that predispose them to disease. But if an animal gets ill, we give it whatever it needs, homoeopathic medicines or standard antibiotics, to make it well.'

Eastbrook animals go to a local slaughterhouse. 'We take them in our own vehicle, and we know the abattoir people very well. There's no long, stressful journey, pre-slaughter starving or frightening waits for the animals when they get there.'

There is, Ms Browning says, a world of difference between the standards of animal welfare on organic and conventional farms. 'Organic systems put the welfare of the animals at the hub. Chickens, for example, need to establish a pecking order and they can't do that when there are more than 200 of them together. So we keep numbers down to that.'

Helen's Organic Farm Shop is at 50 High Street, Shrivenham, Oxfordshire. For a mail-order price list phone: 0793 790460.

Organic Harvest events next week include: Organic cheese and wine tasting (all week) at Grass Roots, 48 Woodlands Road, Glasgow and adjacent Oddbins.

Talk on organic vegetable growing and box schemes (Monday 24 October, 8pm), Whale Tail Cafe, Penny Street, Lancaster.

Bwichwernen Fawr Farm Open Day (Saturday 29 October, 10.30am to 4.30pm), near Lampeter, Dyfed (0570 45244).

Organic Harvest Supper (Saturday 29 October) at Ryton Organic Gardens, Ryton on Dunsmore, Coventry (0203 303517).

Until 16 November Haughton Wines of Bristol is offering a 12 per cent discount to Independent readers. For further details call 0272 637634.

New nationwide delivery service for organic fruit, vegetables and meat from the Fresh Food Company: phone 081- 969 0351 for a price list.

Organic Harvest hotline: 0272 299988.

(Photograph omitted)

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