We are a chilli farm based on the edge of the national park. We are inside the boundary of the park but not over the cattlegrids. Instead we are on farmland.
The DNPA on their website say they are behind new businesses and encouraging ventures on the moor. However we find our application being blocked at every turn. They keep moving the goalposts on why they cannot support our application. They have said that "traffic" is an issue even though we are not allowed to have visitors!!
The chilli farm was established in 2007 and is located on the outskirts of Ashburton within the beautiful Dartmoor National Park. It is run by Phil and Kay Palmer. Kay has trained in floristry, horticulture and holistic therapies. Phil has a diploma in computer studies and is the chilli enthusiast. We grow over 80 varieties of chilli plants along with rhubarb, herbs and vegetables.
We farm holistically and organically without the use of herbicides or pesticides and use nature and hard work to minimise the damage caused by pests such as biological control, companion planting, and regular hand removal of slugs and snails which are given a holiday to another part of the nursery.
We have a very low carbon foot print and caring for the environment is very important to us. The nursery is off grid therefore we create our own electricity with 6 large solar panels and a small wind turbine, up until July 2009 we only used rain water which we collected in over twenty 1000 Litre water buts. We now have a bore hole which has given us our own drinking water and allowed us to water the plants with a hose pipe when necessary. We consciously re-cycle all of our household waste and by conscious shopping methods have not had to add anything to land fill in over three years.
Our range of chilli chocolate is vegan except for the milk chilli chocolate. Our range of dark chocolate contains 70% cocoa and is available in plain, orange, mint and coffee. Our range of chutneys are also vegan along with our chilli jam, sauces and chilli jelly. We use a picture of Dartmoor on our produce range which reflects the beauty of the area where we live.
We are passionate about what we do and proud of everything that we have achieved, in a world where most companies are only concerned with gross profits we are a small company who have embraced a sustainable living which allows us to work in harmony with nature whilst holistically growing and producing a range of chilli plants and produce that we can sell locally and nationally.
We have now reached the point where we need to expand and badly need more growing space.
Our existing growing tunnel is completely screened off by a row of trees and is invisible from the A38 dual carriageway in the valley below. We have also planted 400 ash trees, an orchard of 45 apple trees in the field directly below the proposed new polytunnel area and 1500 hedging plants which will in time create a diverse natural screen between paddocks.
The DNP asked a consultant to do a feasibility study on our project. He actually came back in our favour but now they are saying that this information is only used as a guide. We all know that if the situation was reversed and he had felt we did not have an expanding business, this information would be wielded against us.
However the planners know that if we get the polytunnels we then have justification in living on site so they are blocking us at every turn.
They advised we apply for a council house. The local authority wrote back and said that they feel we are adequately houses and have no need for a council house.
We are paying council tax for where we are living. We have an expanding business in times of economic recession and we are about as eco friendly as you can get.
This year aswell as being a finalist in the FSB Awards for Environmental Responsibility, we are shortlisted for Best Green Business by the South Devon Excellence Awards AND for Climate Change Innovation Award by DEBI.
We fail to see why the DNP cannot support our application. The government say in these times of vast cuts, it is the private sector that needs to help. We are an expanding business but are spending all of our profits on planning issues.
We have now just employed a third person and hope in time to be as successful as our main rivals who now employ 10 local people.
Therefore we need your support. Please sign our petition if you would like to see our business grow and also can recognise that our eco efforts are worthwhile.