The Suffolk farm - that's also a bakery, wild campsite and vineyard

Ben Mackinnon, owner of Fellows Farm, which is spearheading regenerative farming here in Suffolk

Ben Mackinnon, owner of Fellows Farm, which is spearheading regenerative farming here in Suffolk - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Farming is a proud part of life here in Suffolk, with some family farms going back generations. 

But there’s a new generation of farmers who are spearheading an eco-friendly revolution, changing the way they use their land and grow our food. 

Amongst them is Ben Mackinnon.  

Ben Mackinnon, owner of Fellows Farm, harvesting cucumbers

Ben Mackinnon, owner of Fellows Farm, harvesting cucumbers - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Ben’s 70-acre organically certified Fellows Farm in Gosbeck is dedicated to making and growing food that is healthy for both us and the planet – and he’s keen to share this process with as many people as possible.  

Native to Eye and raised in the Waveney Valley, Ben has always had an affinity for the great British countryside.  

“I grew up surrounded by fields in Fressingfield, and while my parents aren’t farmers, they did have a smallholding when I was very young,” he explains. 

Ben Mackinnon creating a sourdough from their fresh produce

Ben Mackinnon creating a sourdough from their fresh produce - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

“They had a cow and milked it, and my dad kept a large flock of turkeys for the Christmas market. My mum was also a keen veg grower.” 

Most Read

As a teen, Ben worked on a nearby organic farm before heading off to study in Scotland.  

“I’ve always been really interested in the natural world and conservation from an early age, so when I finished high school I studied fisheries and conservation biology.”  

Fellows Farm

Fellows Farm - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

After completing his studies, Ben went to work in fisheries before completing further studies in sustainability and renewable energy. “I ended up working as a sustainability consultant for a big multinational firm in London. I did that for a few years but I didn’t enjoy a desk-based role – I'm quite an active person so it wasn’t for me. And I didn’t feel that what I was working on was making a difference to our long-term survival – I wanted to do something with my hands,” he says.  

Ben took some time out for himself, and discovered one of his biggest passions – baking.  

Ben Mackinnon creating a sourdough from their fresh produce

Ben Mackinnon creating a sourdough from their fresh produce - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

“I did a course in artisan bread and realised baking was for me,” he says. 

Soon after, he found himself setting up e5 Bakehouse in East London – which has since grown into an empire of its own. “The company has gone from me on my own to now a couple of bakeries and cafes with 100 staff,” he says.  

“After doing that for almost 10 years, I realised Suffolk never really left my heart. I was always coming back here, and my parents live here. So when I started my family, we moved to a field which I bought about six years prior.” 

It was on this field that he’d been growing oats, wheat, and buckwheat which he had been using in London bakery.  

“We moved here in 2019 when I found out I could convert a small cabin on the field into something we could live in.” 

And thus, Fellows Farm was born.  

Fresh produce from Fellows Farm

Fresh produce from Fellows Farm - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

“The reason we wanted to be here was to try growing fruit and veg, initially for the café in London, but to also build relationships with local farmers who were growing the heritage cereals that we mill at the bakery.” 

With a focus on regenerative farming, Ben wants to change how food is sourced, ensuring it is as environmentally-friendly as possible for current and future generations.  

“It’s a really exciting time to look at the way food is produced, and to see how we can do that in a way that allows us to live in balance with nature. The more biodiversity we have, the more resilient our eco-systems will be – and I wanted to explore first-hand how we could actually do that,” he says. 

Ben wants to reduce the carbon print of farming by using less energy, as well as less pesticides and herbicides. “I just don’t believe they’re necessary to producing food. I also want to reduce nitrogen fertilisers running off into rivers, so we’re working to lessen our dependency on those sorts of fertilisers,” he says.  

Fresh produce from Fellows Farm

Fresh produce from Fellows Farm - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

“We’re keen to improve soil health too, which is the fundamental basis for a sustainable, regenerative farming system.” 

To help him achieve this, he has utilised a no-dig market garden on his farm, with the help of chef-turned-regenerative farmer Lughan Carr.  

Using locally-sourced compost from nearby stables, the farm grows a variety of fruit and veg including heritage tomatoes, six varieties of courgette, cucumbers, turnips, herbs, peas, and beans. 

Fresh tomatoes from Fellows Farm

Fresh tomatoes from Fellows Farm - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

“We have one acre of market garden here at Fellows Farm, which is 100 long beds that we maintain by hand, several polytunnels, and we’re currently establishing a two-acre vineyard. We then take what we grow to the cafes in London - but we want to develop a more local customer base,” he says. 

“We recycle all of our cuttings from the garden and bring back all of the coffee waste from our cafes in London and use those in the compost too.” 

In a bid to regenerate the soil, the farm is also growing old varieties of wheat.  

“They were around before intensive farming, so they’re really suited to farming systems which don’t depend on fertilisers or pesticides, as they evolved in a time when we didn’t have those. What we’ve found as bakers is that they’re really delicious too – they're incredibly flavoursome and work well in breads, pizzas, and cakes.”  

Elsewhere on the site, there are grazing sheep, ponds, and an area dedicated to agroforestry.  

Fellows Farm

Fellows Farm - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

“We have lines of trees with 25m gaps, which allows combine harvesters to run between them, but the idea is that as well as producing fruit we’re providing habitats for animals and insects, to help improve the soil’s biology. It allows for natural predators, such as beetles to eat the slugs rather than using pesticides.  

“What we’re doing isn’t necessarily the answer - but we all have to explore ways that we can farm in a way that our children and grandchildren can continue with – and this is one exploration into that. We’ve been living here for three years now, but the generosity and warmth from the local farmers has been amazing, and they’ve been so kind their knowledge and support.” 

In addition, Fellows Farm is home to a campsite, weaving studio, vineyard, microbakery, and mill. There is also 15 acres of permanent wildflower meadow. 

Fellows Farm

Fellows Farm - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Think of it as somewhere people can go and experience the beauty of the Suffolk countryside first-hand.  

“I suppose I like bringing life to the field, and creating a mix of elements that make up the farm. One of my dreams in life was to create more opportunities here in the countryside. At my core, I love farming, but baking is my number one passion. When I moved here, I bought a woodfired oven with me and during the couple of years we’ve been doing weekly bakes, making sourdough breads. And local chef Nicola Hordern, who set up the Darsham Nurseries, she’s a great chef and would often come over on Saturdays to bake pastries and tarts.” 

Yurts and bell tents at Fellows Farm

Yurts and bell tents at Fellows Farm - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Recently, Ben welcomed over 50 guests for a farm-to-fork dining experience – something like he’d like to do more of in the future.  

“We brought a chef in who cooked some local venison, and everything was sourced from the market garden. They all set up tents and stayed on-site. It really made for an earthy, warm, informal environment to come together in.  

“We’d love to do more of that, and maybe add in wine and bread made on-site, too.”  

Coming up this August, Fellows Farm will be hosting a pizza and music event from 5pm on Wednesday August 10.  

To find out more, visit fellowsfarm.co.uk