Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience

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What’s Growing

Eva, who leads our horticulture team, sat down with me, Moles seed catalogue in hand, to talk about what’s growing at Church Farm this year.  As winter might hopefully be drawing to a close, it’s time to get excited about plans for new crops and setting seeds.

This year promises new varieties of traditional crops, Jerusalem artichokes and lots of colour.

At the end of March, Eva and her team had already set 2000 leek seeds and many spinach seeds, had two varieties of mange tout growing, and were ready to begin setting tomato seeds.  Eva says we are a bit behind last year, due to the lingering cold and snow we have had.

Mange tout, the year’s first crop, will come in green and purple.  There will be three varieties of beetroot grown—one in traditional red/purple, a golden one, and a red and white striped variety called Chioggia.  This year’s French beans will be green, yellow, some climbing and some dwarf.  The team will be planting cherry tomatoes (small) and beefsteak tomatoes (large).

This year Church Farm is expecting to produce more strawberries for a longer harvest period, due to last year’s planting.  This year, 500 new summer raspberries will go in, to increase the raspberry yield in coming years.

Last summer, Eva learned about Jerusalem artichokes from an enthusiastic chef in the Jolly Waggoner and will be growing them this year.

Jerusalem artichokes are sweet and almost garlicky and mushroomy and gorgeous. Although called artichokes they’re actually tubers – like rough and ready potatoes. You can scrub and roast them whole like mini jacket potatoes and split them open, drizzled with a little chilli oil. You can even use them in a salad with smoky bacon. A Jerusalem artichoke’s best friends are sage, thyme, butter, bacon, bay, cream, breadcrumbs, cheese and anything smoked.”

—Jamie Oliver

Hopefully, you will enjoy something new this year, alongside the mainstays of lettuce, carrots, parsnips, cucumber, broad beans, runner beans, and courgettes.  Would you like to see these things growing?  Be sure to include horticulture and the polytunnels on your next walk around the farm.  Are you having a weekly delivery from Church Farm?  You can – it’s easy, at


veg pics

Photos from Moles Seeds, with permission.


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A Farm to Produce Food for People

Church Farm Ardeley is a “community interest company” set in order to innovate and create sustainable small farm enterprises. It took us 6 years of huge losses and a steep learning curve to get to full production and to break even! It is still a work in progress and a never ending challenge.

We produce every cut of meat, every vegetable and fruit we can here. Value is added through doing our own butchery and processing, making ready meals and we are reliant on people eating our food to sustain the farm in the pub, café, and direct farm retail.

To produce such a wide range of food, without using fungicides and pesticides, and in a manner we are proud of, takes a lot of people. We have a core team of full and part time people who help across the enterprises, we provide supervised work experience for adults with difficulties and education, have volunteers, students and interns contributing to getting the huge amount of work done to grow food and bring it to market. In all there about 48 full and part time staff on the payroll to run the farm, café, shop and pub.

We grow:

Livestock includes:

· British Lop, Large White & Berkshire breeding sows, boars, weaners and finishers (120)
· Red Poll and Red Poll Cross Cattle and Followers (80 head)
· Llyen, Suffolk, Texel, Black, White and Badger Faced Welsh Mountain sheep and fat lambs (140 head)
· Light Sussex, Cuckoo Maran, Black Rock, Rhode Island and Hybrid Laying hens (750)
· Outdoor reared table poultry – we produce 50 a week
· Norfolk Black turkeys, Embden geese, Aylesbury ducks, Bee hives and Apiary Garden

In addition we coppice and produce over 1500 bags of logs, make kindling, and grow some Christmas trees.

Thank you to everyone who eats our food and enables us to farm.

—Tim Waygood

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Horticulture and Harvest

Sun, Rain, Sweat and Weeds  DSC08286

At Church Farm in horticulture we are outdoing ourselves. We come into a glorious time of the year when just about every seasonal fruit or vegetable is available, or soon will be available, naturally grown. With a kitchen garden, five polytunnels, five acres of soft fruit and heritage orchard, and over five and a half thousand square metres of field crops, it is truly a pleasure to meet the challenge of serving the Church Farm Store, Café, Jolly Waggoner Pub Restaurant, Aldenham Country Park and over 100 Farm Box customers. As we draw breath, we do it with thanks to the small group of amazing dedicated staff and interns from across the world. We couldn’t do it without you.

DSC08285Church Farm is unique in that we invite you to come in and explore where your food comes from; a working farm in a relaxed atmosphere. If you like your fruit and veg we invite you to come and take a tour or simply come in for a wander and see for yourself.



Autumn and an Interview with Eva

Holly and I talked about Autumn and the harvest and interviewed Eva, who works in Horticulture at Church Farm.  Eva says the harvest is starting now.  Look for Church Farm produce in your box or in the shop.


We will have a harvest for the barbecue party and DSC08291to play in the leaves and the leaves are dancing in the wind with the birds flying in the strong wind and they do art with the leaves in the craft room. To harvest the strawberries and fruits and the vegetables in the box to delver to everyone in the village and round the farm and be careful of the fence with the wire when it windy and
chilly and strong wind. To change the menu for autumn and to harvest the potatoes and to dig DSC08298up the soil with the potatoes in the bucket and the leaves are falling down from the trees and to put the leaves in the compost for the gardening on the allotment and to rake the leaves up in the Autumn and lots of fun and lots of colours on the leaves are beautiful in Autumn and less of flowers in the winter.

Get more vegetables in October and they do harvest celebration and they cut the DSC08300pumpkins open and the pumpkins turn into orange colour in October for the treats. They have got red currants and pears and all veg everyday a lot of tomatoes and salad and veg for the whole project for a long time in the big garden to prepare the box full of fruits and vegetables for the delivery round the farm.

Holly, Co-Farmer and Reporter


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Wonderful Winter Radishes

The Church Farm winter radishes are positively blooming! Compared to the radishes you may typically see in supermarkets, our radishes are large and bulbous, with a black skin and crisp, white flesh.

The black radish is an annual root vegetable that is a member of the Brassica family. First cultivated in the eastern Mediterranean, it is an excellent source of vitamin C, in addition to potassium, iron and magnesium. Furthermore, consumption of the black radish is believed to help prevent infections and promote a healthy digestion system. Throughout history, the black radish has been eaten for its health benefits, whether that be in China (for pulmonary and respiratory health), India (to promote the health of the liver) or Europe (to stimulate bile function). Whatever the reason for their consumption, I think we can all agree that the health benefits of the black radish are numerous – why not pick up a bunch today?

Winter Radish_Office Pic Man

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Rik’s note

Making a welcome return to our salad mixes this week are claytonia (winter purslane) and corn salad, or lamb’s lettuce. However, there is a very pleasing aspect to their appearance from the gardener’s point of view. The plants yielding those succulent and healthy leaves were not planted directly by ourselves.

They have occurred in polytunnel 2, amongst the cucumber plants. Here we grew claytonia and corn salad during last winter, and late in the season the plants flowered and set seed. Those seeds have lain dormant in the soil throughout the spring and summer period, during which time we cleared those winter salads, manured and rotavated the beds, planted the cucumbers, watched them grow until they were ready to harvest. Now the cucumbers are about finished, soon to be cleared to make way for winter crops, and the seeds of winter purslane and lamb’s lettuce have come out of dormancy, germinated and grown in thick, luscious swathes of green.

I must confess they look healthier than their parent plants did, and are producing loads of quality leaves for our salads. This is the beauty of self-seeding plants; The progeny of the plants that you originally set can come back to give you the sweetest of pleasant surprises. No doubt natural selection is in operation here and the fittest plants have made healthy seed and returned fitter plants for the new winter season. Had we adopted a more ruthless approach to weeding, this happy accident would not have occurred.

Soon the cucumber plants will be cleared and we will prepare the beds for planting of winter salads. But we will be sure to work carefully around these wondrous gifts of nature, and keep them alongside this year’s cultivated plants.

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Rik’s note

Another new and unusual item coming soon from Church Farm are Chinese artichokes, also know as crosne (pronounced crone). This little known vegetable comes from a perennial herb grown in our kitchen garden. On the top, the leaves and flowers look very much like mint, but these have no particular aroma or flavour. Under the soil, though, hides the treasure of curious curly white tubers. These have a delicious flavour, despite their odd appearance; slightly nutty with a crisp texture. They can be eaten raw on their own, or in a salad, otherwise they may be cooked briefly by steaming, boiling, frying or roasting. It is better to prepare them by scrubbing them clean rather than trying to peel them, as this will prove to be a rather fiddly task.

The new planting of strawberries in the kitchen garden got off to a great start this year, yielding loads of exceptionally large fruits, and also sending out lots of runners. This is how the strawberry plant propagates itself naturally. The runners have so called “adventitious” roots at each node which will grow if they make contact with soil, and thus develop into a new plant. This year’s plantation was made through a tough woven mulching fabric. The purpose was to control weeds of course, but also to ensure that the runners don’t establish in the soil around their parent plants. If allowed to do so, the planting would rapidly develop into an untidy sprawl, impossible to harvest from without treading on fruit. Instead, we have taken some of the runners to create new plants at the propagation tunnel. The rooting part of the runner is separated with a short piece of stem still attached. This stump is used as an anchor to hold the nascent plant upright in a pot of compost. Large leaves are removed and smaller ones reduced to force the young plant to concentrate its energies on rooting.

So far a good majority of these runners have taken successfully, and these will ultimately be planted in the kitchen garden to increase the quantity of fresh fruit we can provide, or alternatively the plants may be offered for sale to our customers at the farm store.

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Rik’s note

Coming soon to Church Farm boxes and in the store: Dried Borlotti Beans!!

Borlotti beans, also known as cranberry beans, are off-white beans with red markings. When you can find them fresh they come in large beige and red pods with colors that resemble the dried beans. In the shell the borlotti’s bright colored pods make a festive table accent. The shell is inedible, but the borlotti beans inside are a culinary treat. Nutty in flavour with a creamy texture, borlotti are popular in Italian and Portuguese cusine. In fact, many of the borlotti sold inItalyare cranberry beans imported from the U.S.
Dried Borlotti beans are more readily available than fresh and have a much longer shelf life. Fresh borlotti beans should be used within a week or so, but the dried variety will keep as long as other types of dried beans. Dried borlotti can be soaked overnight and then simmered under water or stock with vegetables and/or meat. When cooked the beans will lose some of their bright markings and turn a light brown color. Their meaty, chestnut flavour make borlotti a wonderful main dish and a perfect side dish. Not particularly sweet, the beans can be tossed with olive oil and your choice of spices. The next time you’re feeling adventurous, but not wanting to take too big a risk, try borlotti beans! Borlotti make an excellent cold bean salad; soak for at least 8 hours and cook them as you would any other dried bean (boil hard for ten minutes, then simmer for approx. 30 – 45 minutes), and then toss them with olive oil and a little Italian salad dressing, or lemon and herbs.

For more recipes: beans