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Lady Eve Balfour
(1899 - January 14, 1990) U.K.

Eve Balfour

Agricultural researcher, farmer


Born Evelyn Barbara Balfour, she began farming in 1920, in Haughley Green, Suffolk, England. In 1939, with her friend and neighbor Alice Debenham, she launched the Haughley Experiment, the first long-term, side-by-side scientific comparison of organic and chemical-based farming.

One of the founders of the organic farming movement; author of the classic 1943 text of the organic movement, Towards a Sustainable Agriculture: The Living Soil a book combining her research with the initial findings at Haughley. In 1946, she co-founded and became the first president of the Soil Association, an international organization promoting sustainable agriculture (and the main organic farming association in the UK today). She continued to farm, write and lecture for the rest of her life.

In rural England, a group of women began an experiment, dismissed at the time as "cranky", which, perhaps if it had been thought of by a group of men, might have been more acceptable. Lady Eve Balfour was a niece of British Prime Minister Arthur Balfour. She studied agriculture and trained land army girls during WWI. By the late '30s, Eve was running a farm with her sister Mary, and her business partner, "Bel" Bearden. She decided to turn the farm into a research project, dedicated solely to organic farming research.

Eve lived with her life partner, Kathleen Carnley, for 50 years.


We received the following e-mail:

I am transcribing the diaries of co-operative agriculture pioneer Sir Horace Plunkett and came across an entry for 14 December 1919 which dates the farm of Eve and Mary Balfour from then. Plunkett writes:

"Went . . . to Fishers Hill. Gerald . . . tells me . . . his two daughters Eve & Mary have taken 150 acres of land in Suffolk & mean to farm it for a living."

Kind regards, K. T.


Painting of Lady Eve Balfour, founder of the Soil Association © by Mary Erstman.

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