Sustainable Food Production

Exemplary Model of Transition Farming

  1. Organic Fruit & Vegetable Farm

  2. Perm culture Design & Principles

  3. Volunteer Opportunities

  4. Support Worker

  5. Transition Farming

  6. Farm Energy Audit

  7. Renewable Energy

  8. Earth Building

  9. Willow for Sale

  10. Paul Benham

  11. Jan Benham

  12. Vision & Aims

  13. Primrose Earth Awareness Trust






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Our Next Residential Gardening/Cooking Course:

'Gardening & Cooking for Life and a  Sustainable Future'

£200 / £180 concession – residential course that includes food & accommodation

This is an inspiring new course which is part of two residential weekends that incorporate many of the teachings from the 'How to Garden for Life' course and also include wild foraging and seasonal eating to optimise health.


Spring: May 2013   

Autumn: 12-14 October 2012    


Click here for further details about these two courses



Guardian newspaper feature and audio slideshow, Click here!

  1.  Organic Fruit & Vegetable Farm


Situated at the foothills of the Black Mountains, near Hay-on-Wye, Primrose Organic Farm seeks to be a place of calm and beauty, where visitors can find inspiration to live more harmoniously within their immediate environment, their local communities and the natural world.

A thriving organic fruit and vegetable business, it is also a wonderful example of how permaculture can assist nature in providing an abundance of wonderfully nutritious and luscious food.  It hosts a large, mature Forest Garden in which can be found almost a hundred varieties of fruit and nut trees. 

There are regular opportunities in terms of Work and Volunteering.

Organic produce is sold to the local community through Hay-on-Wye market every Thursday from March to December. 

A number of high class hotels and local restaurants are also supplied. Produce is also sold direct from the farm Tel: 01497 847636 or E-mail us: 


Nurturing the Land

Primrose Farm and its owner, Paul Benham, have a proven record of success. What began as a bare field with one apple tree and a rhubarb plant has grown into (with minimal capital), a flourishing ecological and permaculture holding. In this relatively marginal growing area, approximately £20,000 of organic produce is grown annually from 1.5 acres. The crops are luxuriant and have wonderful flavours and the fertility of the soil is excellent. It appears that there is something very special about the land here as it has been said that the flavour of the produce far surpasses that of other organic produce. 

We try to maintain deep respect and gratitude for the Earth, within our food production systems.  We value the natural cycles of energy and the gardens produce an incredible abundance of food.



Primrose Farm is an outstanding example of people-centred low impact agriculture, with little or no reliance on intensive energy. It is a flagship for sustainable food and the model at the heart of the proposed new Centre for Sustainable Food. The farm is a holistic ecological system, which operates in balance with nature. Teachings from nature have demonstrated ways to use nature’s abundant renewable resources in preference to fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources of the Earth. This is an excellent example of Biomimicry, which is incorporating natural ecological models, organic methods and permaculture design principles to create a highly sustainable operational system that is intensively productive and actively supports biodiversity.

 Paul studied conventional agriculture as well as organic husbandry and ecology and has a doctorate in aspects of farm animal behaviour. Combining this solid scientific background with his direct experience of developing Primrose Farm, he is developing the Transition Farming model to demonstrate how to transform any piece of conventional pastureland into as productive an organic system as his own, within a five-year plan.

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  1. Permaculture Design & Principles

Primrose Farm has been managed ecologically since 1990. Over the last few years, permaculture principles have been introduced. Not only has this considerably added to the sustainability of the holding, but has created new habitats and tranquil settings which are of great benefit to wildlife and people. The 0.5-acre forest garden is probably the largest that is commercially operating in this country and contains around 95 different varieties of fruit and nut trees.


There is a distinct quality of peace in this area, partly created through its sustainable and minimal maintenance system. 6 ponds have been created, a bog garden has been developed and a 0.5-acre native woodland has been planted for coppicing. 


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  1. Volunteer & Work Opportunities 

Volunteering opportunities are available through World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) organisation: www.wwoof.org.uk 


Visitors to Primrose Centre have widely different experiences, depending on their reason for being there and their expectations before they arrived. We find that those with fewer prior expectations tend to have a more positive experience. As in many life situations, those who are prepared to give have tended to get the most from their stay.  Volunteers work 6½ hours a day for 5 days then have 2 days off. 

We are planning a new initiative at Primrose to merge sustainability closer to spirituality and to help raise conscious awareness, since 2012 is moving fast into our lives. We would like to have a regular working period when people do not talk or communicate with others apart from sharing essential information. This will bring mindfulness into the work and enable those involved to focus fully on the work and develop a deeper relationship with the earth and nature and perhaps intuitively acquire a better understanding of the needs of the plants. This could perhaps occur for example half a day per week or two days per month.


For volunteers and support workers, each person has their own living space, however the accommodation although fairly basic, is comfortable.  A bed or mattress is provided, with sheets, a duvet and bedding.

Rooms are available within the farm house during 3-4 months during the winter; other spaces are available from spring through to autumn and there are showers, toilets and washing facilities and a shared living room.

Cooking and cleaning are shared on a rota basis, so there is plenty of opportunity to be creative with culinary skills.

Here are some comments from Support Workers, Volunteers and Visitors who have worked at Primrose Farm over the last few years.

Some Volunteers' Reflections:

'Thank you very much for all. I enjoyed my stay here. Work in your farm was a pleasure and I learn a lot about Permaculture'.
Cedric, France 

'Spending time here has, and I believe will continue to do so, impacted me in a very unexpected manner. Although my visit was brief, it was full, and a learning and feeling and realisation experience that will be treasured, savoured and held close always. I am forever in gratitude and admiration of all that this farm is and the magic it holds, as well as those who have so beautifully made their lives - and it and all, it means one. I thank you for being here and I thank you for sharing it with me for a moment. May the sun shine forever on you all. With warmest thanks'.
Tammy, Canada 

'Primrose Farm is a truly inspiring place! It has been great to be in a place with a vision. The Sound Chamber is fabulous. I will miss the wren, the mouse and everyone on the farm. Thanks'.
Odette & Sam, Australia 





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  1. Paid Support Work  

Opportunities arise for paid support workers willing to commit for at least a season or minimum 6 months, to work at Primrose Farm producing and selling high diversity organic vegetables, fruit and herbs. A stay of longer duration enables people to take on responsibility which adds to the learning experience. Usually 2 support workers take shared responsibility for running the different aspects of the garden and daily routines. Support workers receive £50/week + food and accommodation.  


Support Worker Role:

We encourage people to stay at Primrose longer term for the season (February- November) as Support Workers, because this enables them to experience a longer part of the growing period, which in itself has greater learning potential. It also permits them to take on responsibility, which is good for them, but also for me as my focus is considerably consumed by other activities such as promoting the Primrose sustainable food model, running courses and hosting tour groups.

Generally 2-3 Support Workers are present to help run the commercial garden, with one person carrying extra responsibility for marketing and another overseeing the daily flow of work on the farm. When new people and short-term people arrive, they base their level of commitment on their perception of the on-going performance. Please therefore keep good time since the 7 hr working day can quickly shorten. An untestified law appears to exist in that new people tend to adjust their time keeping to that of the worst time keepers! Also it is important to set a good example of approaching the work with enthusiasm and efficiency.

There are some responsibilities that need to be shared between Support Workers such as opening and closing the tunnels and finishing off preparing for market on a Wednesday evening. It is good if the tunnels are opened and closed at weekends on a rota. If anyone is happy to work on a Saturday or Sunday and have at least one of their days off during the week then that can be helpful as the polytunnels need watering in the summer.

Everyone has responsibility for keeping the place clean and tidy. This refers to the Garden – returning tools and collecting up unwanted items; also to the Domestic Scene – there are rotas for Cleaning: Mondays 4-5pm (Kitchen & Surrounds), Fridays 3.30-5.30pm (same including Showers, Toilets, Stairs etc).

Other areas can become more the responsibility of individuals eg. Looking after the Greenhouse – which is a big job in the spring and early summer; Running the Irrigation Systems and Sheep Management.

The position particularly suits people who are well-motivated and prepared to invest good, positive energy into Primrose. In order to maintain a low carbon footprint most of the work at Primrose is performed by people. Our commercial operation is a great model of potential possibilities, however at present it is competing with a heavily supported and very mechanised alternative. Working efficiency has to be maintained at Primrose in order to make it moderately economically viable. Support Workers have 2 days off/week and are paid £50/week + food & accommodation. Unfortunately we are unable to provide sick pay or holiday pay.

We are planning a new initiative at Primrose to merge sustainability closer to spirituality and to help raise conscious awareness, since 2012 is moving fast into our lives. We would like to have a regular working period when people do not talk or communicate with others apart from sharing essential information. This will bring mindfulness into the work and enable those involved to focus fully on the work and develop a deeper relationship with the earth and nature and perhaps intuitively acquire a better understanding of the needs of the plants. This could perhaps occur for example half a day per week or two days per month.

There are so many different aspects at Primrose with many interesting developments; there is great potential for learning through doing. Also, there is a more formal learning opportunity ½ day/month on the Organic & Sustainable Food Production Course

NB. We recommend that Support Workers stay for 1 week before committing to stay for a season. All Support Workers are initially taken on for a 1-month’s trial period. Once they have been taken on, either side will be required to give 1 month’s notice.

Some Comments from Support Workers:

'Staying on Primrose Farm was an important part of my life. I got lots of practical experience in gardening and building especially in being involved in fulfillment of projects. I was really interested in living close to the Celtic culture and being involved in sound healing and meditation. I got enough time to think about what I really want to do in life, especially for the next 5 years. Thank you for that nice time'   Stephan, Germany 


'It was a bit scary on my first night sitting down to dinner with a big gang of men [nb. not always only men here!] but really glad I stuck around. The thing that will stick with me from Primrose will be the fantastic people passing through; everyone of them teaching me something about life, plants, the importance of a good breakfast - but most importantly I've learnt a lot about myself. Have loved my time here. Hope anyone who follows, will too. Thank you Paul and Jan for opening your doors'   Penny, UK

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  1. Transition Farming

Priority need for the Transition Farming model

Primrose Farm provides a blueprint model for Transition Farming which is a very low carbon input system incorporating high biodiversity, powered by people and encouraging wildlife and operating in total balance with nature.

Sequestration of carbon into the soil through adding organic matter

There is a growing recognition that how we grow, distribute, store, sell and consume food makes a significant contribution to one of the greatest sustainability threats of all – climate changing greenhouse gas emissions.  A major EU wide study puts the contribution of the food life cycle from seed to plate at 31 per cent of all EU greenhouse gas emissions. 10-15% of our carbon dioxide emissions are attributed to the actual production processes, so the need for low impact healthy food production is more critical now than ever before.

Primrose Farm near Hay-on-Wye offers a solution through providing a model of effective and productive carbon neutral farming on possibly the most productive acre and a half in Europe.

“The most sustainable farming system I have ever seen. Paul Benham is from a scientific background and the systems are based on sound science and a genuine belief in sustainablity.”   Huw Thomas, Agri-Food Manager Welsh Assembly Government, 2007.  

Ducks foraging for slugs in the Vegetable Garden

 Growing sustainable solutions in urban or rural situations

The beauty of the Transition Farming model lies mainly in its small size, which makes it approachable and relevant to many situations. Most communities or authorities could find an acre or two of land that could be put to community food production. The model has many parallels to successful Cuban community agriculture projects. Cuba adapted to the longstanding blockade of agricultural chemicals by switching to organic production and is now a world leader in sustainable agriculture. Typical community plots (huertas) are around 1,000 square metres and they feed millions of mouths. In some Cuban cities 80% of the food requirements are grown within the confines of the city and the Cuban model is spreading fast throughout Latin America. Transition Farming has particular relevance for urban farming situations and to the Transition Towns’ movement which is investigating sustainable ways to feed the UK’s urban populations in the future.

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  1. Farm Energy Audit

Primrose Farm is an exemplary model of highly successful energy descent food production.



An exemplary model of highly successful energy descent food production & Transition Farming where food and the earth coexist within the natural balance

Minimal fossil fuel is used in both production and distribution

Productive area = 1.5 acres which yields £20,000/year

1-acre market garden of which 75% = raised beds and totally people powered

0.5-acre sustainable forest garden; no dig and minimal maintenance

All produce sold within 15 miles and 85% within 5 miles 

Farm Energy Audit

1) Fuel used during production + embodied energy

Fuel used per year in production Embodied energy
Max 3 gallons for rotavator Construction of rotavator
3 gallons diesel tractor Low as tractor 60 years old
Total: 6 gallons = 27.3 litres = 0.0764 tonnes CO2  emission  
Electricity 200 Watts for 2 months’ seed propagating =66kg CO emissions Use recycled fridges and freezers
General horticultural materials

Polytunnels low as > 40 years old

Tunnel covers - 1 per 18 months

Pots, trays etc

2) Fuel used during distribution + embodied energy

Fuel use per year in distribution Embodied energy
58 trips and 580 miles to Hay-on-Wye  
20 trips and 720 miles to Brecon etc  
Total: 1300 miles = 52 gallons = 236.6 litres = 0.6861 tonnes CO2  emission Low as car 18 years old

Plan to fit Eco-Tek CB – 26P to reduce emissions and improve performance

TOTAL CO emissions (Production & Distribution) = 0.0414 Tonnes per year per £1,000 of produce sold

3) Net carbon sink

Beneficial net carbon sink
0.5-acre of woodland  + willow coppice
0.5-acre of forest garden
Sequestration of carbon in the soil  + green manures

b) Farmhouse energy audit

Processes Future plans
0.5-acre woodland to source wood for heat and willow coppicing Wind turbine—in process
Firewood bundles from local saw mill Conservatory on South of house
Biomass log boiler with accumulator tank and efficient wood burners Straw bale and earth constructions

Low energy light bulbs

Electricity from Green Energy Co

Considering electric car for delivering produce
Solar heating water panels   
Recycle waste

Farm & farmhouse with tourism has achieved ‘Green Dragon’ Award level 2

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  1. Renewable Energy

Installed is a 25kw biomass log boiler, which operates very efficiently with a high, fast burn during which all the gases are burnt.  The 1500 litre accumulator tank is so well insulated that it will only lose a degree a day and so the fast, efficient burning of the logs heats this large volume of water, which can then be used as required.



biomass log boiler                                   solar water panels


The solar hot water panels consist of the evacuated tube type, which is considerably more efficient than the flat plate models.  Each system with 30 tubes and hot water cylinder, pumps and controllers costs about £1,200 and we installed it ourselves.


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  1. Earth Building

The 'Cobb' oven at Primrose which is based on the Phoenix form


Paul worked as a potter for 18 months when he first lived at the farm. He now realises that earth building is pottery on a large scale and it is possible to sculpture an incredibly beautiful house.  There is a very wide range of earth building examples on the farm and on the adjacent Primrose Trust land in the form of wattle & daub, cob and rammed earth, that Paul has orchestrated.  Courses will be on offer soon.


Building the 'Wattle & Daub' walls of the Celtic Roundhouse


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  1. Willows for Sale

There are many areas of coppiced willows around the farm, which include a wide variety of creative structures ranging from arches and living willow fences, to tunnels and a labyrinth.  

'Black' willows for basket making and 'Bowles' hybrid rods for making sculptures and archways etc in gardens, are available for sale.


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  1. Paul Benham

Paul Benham (Photographer Raj Curry)

Paul trained in conventional agriculture and gained a BSc in agricultural science at Wye College during the end of the 60’s when there was no thought towards any possible limits to growth and agri-business was at full throttle. He learnt all these exploitative farming processes and gained practical experience in conventional farming in both the UK and abroad.

Having become disillusioned with the intensive high fossil fueled, conventional farming approach to food production, Paul retrained by studying an MI Biol in Ecology and Animal Behaviour. The ecological training has been invaluable during the creation of the natural gardens at Primrose, where food production coexists in a very healthy balance with nature.

Paul then gained his doctorate through studying the social behavior of cows, and identified a reduction in ‘friendly’ social behaviours, an increase in stress and an increase in aggression within large intensively managed herds He won the Fleming prize for best scientific paper in this field that year. He then worked for 3 years studying the interactive behaviour between badgers and cows with relevance to TB transmission. He identified a range of management recommendations for keeping the species apart and gave a number of  presentations at conferences in England including 3 in Ireland.

Paul moved to Primrose Farm in 1985 and began the process of converting a bare field of grass into an ecological haven that produces an enormous abundance of food.  He valued organics as a large step in the right direction, but has been concerned about the limitations of it and particularly because organic systems encompass a very wide range of fossil fuel demands.  So for the last 15 years, permaculture has been embraced since it addresses many of the problems facing our planet.  


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  1. Jan Benham

Jan Benham has a deep interest in food and nutrition and the ways in which we can rebalance and re-energise our bodies through eating what is right for us.

Jan has a background in dietary healing and uses her knowledge and love of cooking in the daily life at the farm, creatively producing healthy meals for volunteers and guests, catering for special diets and food preferences.  Most of the meals we serve at the farm are created using organic, seasonal produce from the gardens.


Jan prepares meals for all the courses that are run at Primrose Farm and runs the Gardening & Cooking for Life programme with Paul.


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  1. Vision & Aims

Our Vision:

  • To create a rural sanctuary that demonstrates the interdependence of all life and encourages an appreciation of the relationship between respecting the earth and nourishing our souls.


Our Aims:

  • To encourage greater connection with the rhythms of nature, earth and plants through the joy of producing and eating healthy food and physically working within the rhythms of nature.

  • To share the inspirations of the principles of permaculture and focus on changes that we as individuals can make to create solutions to some of the local and global problems we currently face.

  • To offer a rural sanctuary where visitors can experience harmony in nature, appreciate the interconnectedness and one-ness of all life and become aware that through nurturing the earth, we also help to nurture and heal ourselves.

  • To raise awareness of the healing powers and the magical vibration of sacred sound and to encourage the art of listening to inner and environmental sounds and rhythms, helping us to reconnect with our inner and outer journeys and with who we are.

  • To develop and nurture the sacred spirit of the land and to re-awaken our connections with this sacredness by learning from indigenous traditions and honouring the Celtic ancestors of this land.

  • To facilitate sessions in the Peace Sound Chamber to help manifest inner and global peace.

  • Utilising the sacred geometry of the Emissary Wheel, to foster qualities of love and peace.

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  1. Primrose Earth Awareness Trust (PEAT)

In 2000, Paul founded Primrose Earth Awareness Trust (PEAT) - an environmental and sustainable education centre - through his deep concern that local school-children visiting Primrose Farm were unable to identify simple vegetables such as carrots and leeks, growing in the ground.

PEAT is now an education centre with charitable status and is situated on its own piece of land. Local schoolchildren from schools within a 35-mile radius and other groups, have visited PEAT on a regular basis during the last 7 years. At present, PEAT is seeking funding to create more permanent, sustainable and inspiring educational and residential facilities that can be used by different groups and individuals throughout the year. For more information, E-mail: paul@primroseearthcentre.co.uk  or visit the PEAT website at www.primrosetrust.org.uk

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Guided Tours & Seasonal Meals:

From April to October, we run a 2-hour Guided Tour followed by a 2-course seasonal meal.  Cost: £14 ppn.  Please contact us if you would like to bring a group, minimum 4 people.


'How to Garden for Life'


This course covers the practical processes and theoretical principles of the organic & sustainable methods used in food production and in general living.  Run by Primrose Earth Awareness Trust (PEAT) - an education charity adjacent to Primrose Earth Centre. The course is held annually once per month over a 10-month period commencing in January each year, although it can be joined at any point within a year . For further information about the 2012 course E-mail: paul@primroseearthcentre.co.uk

through developing sustainable, natural food gardens


Throughout 2013

At ‘The Centre for Sustainable Food

Primrose Earth Awareness Trust, Felindre, nr Talgarth,

Brecon, Powys LD3 0ST


This inspiring course will encourage you to take on permaculture principles to produce healthy food from your farm or garden or simply help you to understand how you can live more sustainably. Learning from nature and the Primrose Transition Farming Model.

Each month, we will explore the ideas behind practical gardening activities appropriate to the season and you can see how the wonderful and incredibly productive gardens at Primrose Centre change throughout the year. Sessions are on Tuesdays from 10.00-15.00. We can provide hot drinks, but please bring your own lunch and suitable clothing for practical work.


5th Feb

Designing and planning sustainable + organic gardening and farming systems. Planting and using willows

This course is ideal for:

  • amateur gardeners, smallholders and farmers

  • anyone wishing to grow healthy food

  • retired people looking for new experiences

  • people who care for the environment

5th March

Edible Forest Garden - design and practice. Pruning and seed propagation

26th March

Mulching in the forest garden and organic vegetable garden. Composting

23th April & 14th May

Sowing and planting out - outside and in the polytunnels.
Feeding the soil, soil health, fertility and biodynamics

4th June & 2nd July

Care of polytunnel crops
Pest and disease management
Harvesting for maximum quality and production
Biodiversity and Wildlife

On the course you will:

  • learn design skills

  • improve knowledge and practical skills

  • appreciate and connect with nature

  • share experiences and make new friends

  • become inspired to feed yourself and your family with healthy and vital food

3rd Sept

Winter ground preparation.
Harvesting and processing. Green manures.

1st Oct

Preparing for winter cropping in polytunnels.
Preserving and juicing; Seed saving
Sprouting tasty & nutritious grains, seeds & pulses

12th Nov

Choosing plant and tree varieties.
Tree planting Energy & food production

Course Leader: Dr Paul Benham: Holistic farmer; Project Director, Centre for Sustainable food

Contact: Paul on 01497 847 636 or paul.benham33@gmail.com

Cost: £25 per session or £210 for whole course



'Gardening & Cooking for Life and a  Sustainable Future'

Residential 2-Part Weekend Course 2012

Growing Sustainable Food Solutions

Gardening & Cooking for Life and a Sustainable Future

£200/ £180 concession per weekend – includes food & accommodation

Primrose Earth Centre, Felindre, Brecon Powys LD3 0ST

01497 847636; www.primroseearthcentre.co.uk

e: paul@primroseearthcentre.co.uk

Spring: 18-20th May

Designing organic and sustainable, natural food gardens

Building and sustaining soil fertility

Composting, utilizing waste, mulching, minimizing cultivations

Seed sowing and planting out


Pests and diseases

Exploring methods of growing and preparing food to maximize flavour, nutrients and energy

Beneficial spring foods

Foraging in the garden and the wild

Preparing a wild spring salad

Autumn: 12-14th October

Designing and maintaining a Forest Garden

Creating low energy food systems

Green manures and winter cropping in polytunnels

Backyard gardening

People-centred food systems

Seed saving

Choosing best varieties for annual vegetables and fruit production

Working with willows and their use in a sustainable garden

Wildlife gardening

Unusual and interesting methods of preserving fruit, vegetables and herbs from the garden and the wild.


Sprouting foods

Preparing nuts, fruits, roots and berries

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