Situated in the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside, Willowbrook is unlike any other farm. The first farm in the UK to exclusively sell halal meat, it’s what many would call ethical farming at its finest.
Willowbrook farm is an organic and sustainable farm with a holistic approach to all aspects of food production that boasts a natural and chemical free approach. The farm is run by Ruby and Lufti Radwan along with their children, Asiyla, Camilla, Ali, Lamia, Khalil and Adam.
When asked about the inspiration behind the farm, Khalil explains that his mother and father, Ruby and Lufti, were really the driving force behind it. They weren’t happy with the quality of halal meat available to them at the time, so they took matters into their own hands. Both Ruby and Lufti quit their jobs, sold their home and started the journey that would change their lives.
The family initially started with just 10 chickens in their back garden for eggs and meat. From there, Khalil’s father began sourcing chickens directly from the local farmer, doing a small test run delivering eggs locally, using only a pushchair! Shortly after, his father started looking for land and it wasn’t long before Willowbrook farm was born.
When the family first moved to the plot of land, it was nothing more than an open farm with nothing inside other than empty fields. A real rags to riches story, they completely revamped the area, turning it from nothing into something. Getting the farm up and running was certainly no easy feat, but the family did it. They had to juggle relocating, school and starting up a new business from scratch. Khalil describes it as a make or break type situation which he says the family managed to pull through with a lot of luck and guidance from Allah.
Khalil fondly reminisces that growing up, when the kids weren’t busy with revision, they spent their time helping out on the farm. For them the entire process had not only been an adventure but a learning experience too.
There’s often a misconception about what exactly halal is. Simply put, halal translates to permissible or acceptable. It’s important to understand that this applies to the treatment of the animals and how they are taken care of.
One of the most important things to note in regard to halal farming is the protection of the animal from pain and undue suffering. So, rearing animals in intensive, battery farmed conditions is considered haram because of the mistreatment of the animal. Khalil explains that treating animals in an inhumane way is unacceptable and that’s something that’s not something specific to just Islam, rather all of humanity.
Khalil personally prefers to view halal farming simply as acceptable farming. For him it’s not something that’s unique to the Muslim community in the sense that it’s really about ethical farming.
He goes on to say that we’re here on this earth as stewards and that it’s our responsibility to live responsibly, taking care of the world we live in. Khalil explains that to disregard what’s around us creates irreparable damage on the planet for generations to come. Everything must be done in accordance to Islamic guidelines that reinforce a conscious approach to how we take care of the earth. In his own words, “You appreciate the gifts of God, the miracle that life is.”
Khalil adds that the community support and feedback from the farm has been great. The family have created something real and built a genuine community from all walks of life, connected beyond just names.
The farm hosts an annual Arts and Music festival designed to bring communities together. There are a range of activities for all ages from, watercolour painting and stop motion animation, to archery and African drumming. The farm really takes an educational approach which the festival reiterates in the way it aims to reconnect visitors with nature.
Khalil describes the spirit and essence of the farm as inspiring, explaining that there really isn’t a day he’s not inspired by his own parents. From how they turned their dreams and aspirations to a reality through hard work and dedication, Khalil believes there isn’t a single storybook character that can compete with them.
Head over to our Facebook page to learn more about the festival and Willowbrook Farm.