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Kent Grower of the Year 2021: Eckley Farms

Recipe: Smoky Cajun chicken with potato wedges

Eckley Farms

Eckley Farms is a family farming partnership, specialising in regenerative arable farming. Guy, Claire, Mike and Vera Eckley farm in four locations around Maidstone, including on the Leeds Castle Estate, with colleagues George, Callum and Jules. James and Tom Eckley help in the school holidays.

The farm grows wheat, oilseed rape, and beans as it’s main crops, but it’s the growing methods that makes these farmers innovators in their field.

All of the oilseed rape is pressed into Pure Kent Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil, and a few tonnes of wheat are stone milled on the farm to make Pure Kent flours, available on their web site, and in independent shops across the county.

What makes Eckley Farms regenerative?

Guy says “We use a variety of techniques to regenerate our soils. We grow cover, companion and catch crops to harvest the energy of the sun and draw carbon into plants, even in the winter. Living crops exuding carbon compounds from their roots are the best way to sequester carbon into our soils. These crops create a more diverse microbiome above and below ground giving small animals, and microorganisms places to live, as well as benefitting the following crop to be harvested. ”

Guy also experiments with compost tea, and the farm makes it’s own compost from wood chips and muck from a local dairy farm. Along with precision hoeing, these farming philosophies have resulted in a much lower use of chemical fertilisers, fungicides and insecticides than a typical conventional arable farm.

Tell us about how you engage with the community

Claire says “We grow some large areas of mixed flower crops for pollinators and winter bird food. We are in touch with a local nature group, who record the wildlife. They have recorded a number of red list bird species recently, including yellowhammers, linnets, and tree sparrows – much excitement! For those of us with less knowledge of little brown birds, there’s the chance to just enjoy the flowers from lanes and public footpaths, especially as more people are out enjoying our fantastic countryside in Kent.”

What can we buy from Eckley Farms?

“We have an online shop, where you can purchase and then collect our Pure Kent rapeseed oils, salad dressings and flours from secure lockers on the farm,” says Claire. “There are also plenty of independent stockists around the county.”

Recipe – Smoky Cajun Chicken with potato wedges

Try this quick easy recipe for a mid week supper.

  • Spatchcock a small chicken by cutting along the back bone, turning it over and flattening it.
  • Mix two tablespoons of Pure Kent Oak Smoked Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil with 2 generous teaspoons of Cajun spice mix.
  • Massage the oil spice mix under the skin of the chicken on the breast and legs.
  • Put the chicken into an oven to roast.
  • Quarter some clean potatoes length wise. We find Maris Peer work nicely. Boil the wedges for 8 minutes. In the meantime heat some Pure Kent Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil on a baking tray in the oven.
  • Drain the potatoes thoroughly, put the lid back on, and give them a shake to rough them up. Put the wedges in the hot oil and roast with the chicken.
  • If the chicken is ready before the wedges, leave it to rest and turn up the oven temperature to 190oC, and continue to cook til the wedges are nice and brown.
  • To serve, cut up your chicken into thighs, drumsticks and breast portions. Serve with wedges, and home made coleslaw.