Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience

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From the Farmer

  • We are way behind in planting this year and the ground is a real challenge, having baked hard on top, it is wet underneath still.
  • Cows finally went out on 18th April a month later than last year. So far we have 9 male calves and 1 female born. Thirty to come !
  • Cattle can be viewed from the footpaths around the farm and rotate across 4 fields moving about every 3 weeks.
  • Pig pens to move to new ground as soon as we can. Then we plant mustard, then plough that in and grow vegetables, as it acts as green manure and stops nitrogen leaching out of the soil.
  • 25 white leghorn (white birds, white eggs), 25 Cuckoo Marans (Speckeldy very dark brown eggs), and 25 Light Sussex (White bird, brown eggs) have joined the flock in the Walnut Orchard.



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Wanted: Volunteers

Ian Corley wrote a lovely article  for the January newsletter about his volunteering with Rural Care over the years and the benefits it has brought to the farm and his life.

Church farm and Rural Care have had many volunteers over the years.  Some have been with us since the beginning, like Ruth who comes weekly to support the Co-Farmers. Whilst other do a more intensive shorter burst of volunteering like John and Steve who come in twice a week to do maintenance jobs around Rural Care and the farm. Some take the lead in a particular project they see through from start to finish, like Roger, who organised a grid for the orchard and engraved 800 metal plaques with the individual tree names on.

This just gives you an idea of just a few people’s contribution at the farm.

What all our volunteers have in common is that they make a valuable contribution on the farm and that we simply couldn’t do what we do without them and we can never thank our volunteers enough for all they do.

Currently we are looking for more volunteers in maintenance, conservation, horticulture and retail.


The nice thing is that you could commit to as little as once a month for a few hours and it would still make a difference.

If you are interested in any of these opportunities please contact Ann.



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Students at Church Farm

Two North Herts College students recently wrote about their experiences as Co-Farmers at Church Farm.

Spring Jobs on the Farm

Springtime is when plant bulbs come out from the winter’s sleep.  There is lots to do on the farm preparing for this exciting time of the year.

On the allotment we are very busy of weeding out old plants, cleaning tools, fixing netting and raised beds and collecting compost.  We will be using the compost to grow our plants this year.

Some Co-Farmers have been very busy potting spring bulbs for people to buy in the farm shop—they look beautiful!


It’s a good time to make the lambing bays cosy and warm for the arrival of lambs in a few weeks time.



My Day at the Farm

This morning I arrived at 9:25am.  The first job I did was the chickens.  It was smelly.  We then got the eggs from the nest boxes and then gave them a deep clean like getting rid of the dirty straw.  We put it on the compost heap.  We then got the fresh straw down on the floor and into the nest boxes.  We then had a break about 10:20am.  I had a cup of tea.


Then in the next session, we carried on with our wood project.  I made book ends using cut out magazine pictures and then put gloss on my bookends.  Then we had lunch at 12:15pm and I had another tea.

This afternoon we did a compost run.  We did two trips there and back from the chickens.  I nearly fell over in the mud patch!



Rural Care, where care for land and people meet.  Rural Care enables people with learning disabilities and/or mental health issues to work on a farm, learn skills, and make friends.  Working on a farm is a great way to keep healthy, and build confidence and self-esteem.



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Running for Rural Care

Tony H - Rural care

Our very own Tony Hopkins is running the London Marathon this year to raise money for Rural Care. Once we had got over the fact that Tony could actually run and didn’t just stand around drinking tea all day, we thought about how we could help him train. What Tony doesn’t know is that we have a training schedule planned for him. How better to train for a marathon than helping herding sheep. We thought he could start by herding our flock of 200 ewes. Think one man and his dog, without the dog! To finish up his training we thought we could put the pressure on and let the rams do the herding and see how fast he can run! We are here to help in any way we can.

All money raised will help Rural Care in different ways to help in general but there are some specific projects and tools we have in mind.

  • We would like a few new 2-wheeled wheelbarrows, as these enable Co-Farmers with mobility problems to be more independent.
  • We would also like to make some of our animal pens more accessible for wheelchair users.
  • Finally, we have a fund for individuals who we really feel would benefit from what we do. Funding for provisions and services is diminishing year on year. It often hits hardest for those who fall between the cracks or don’t fit into the funding boxes. This fund will enable those individuals to access the farm and all it has to offer.

We are blown away by this amazing gesture and will be with Tony every step of the way through this amazing journey.

Donate at


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A Job Well Done

Tuesday 11th July saw the completion of a piece of work lasting several months. Hollybush School invited Rozelle and Chicken Dave to their school to meet the parents of the children who had visited the school on five occasions throughout the annual cycle of the farms year. (see Hollybush School Farm Visits)


The children produced a rap describing the things they had done on the farm, and Nicky Lawson who was the driver behind the project and a friend of our own Jill Goehringer, set up a beautiful rolling backdrop of many of her fabulous photos from the visits.

Each child had a learning diary relating to their time at the farm, and the parents were able to add their testimonies to the enthusiasm and excitement that the trips created.

We were greeting with smiles and waves greeted and enjoyed the memories of each of the five visits, reminding us of the times we had shared together and the spin offs which included writing skills, drawing skills, epic adventures and a new home for a stick!!

It was a huge endorsement that learning doesn’t only go on in the classroom and that gaining new skills can take place in many places in many forms.

Many thanks must go to the support of the school governors, head mistress, supporting teachers, especially Nicky, the staff at the farm, and the parents and children themselves.

Truly a job well done.

Chicken Dave


Farm Rap by Hollybush Young Farmers

This is the learning, the fun and the charm
Of all we have done on our trips to the farm.

We saw the pigs, we saw the cows,
We saw the cat which always miaows.

Baby lams they’re the best,
We wove sheep’s wool to make a vest
(well we made a rug but that didn’t rhyme
So we had to change the truth this time!)

We made a scarecrow and stuffed it with straw,
The birds are gone now but they weren’t before.

We mostly loved the eggs and picking up hens
And seeing the lambs with the mums in the pens.

The bluebells were beautiful, we loved climbing trees,
The tractor ride awesome, we want more if you please.

Finley found a stick that was so long and so cool,
He wanted to bring it back to our school.

Dave said he’d look after it and now take a look,
He’s written a story that will be a book!

We planted strawberries, we climbed in the pooh,
Next time we hope that you can come too.

Time at Church Farm was really sick
It was so great, it went too quick!

To Rozelle and Dave, let’s give a big CHEER
Thanks a million, you’ve made our year!



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Dr Finlay’s Walking Stick: Fin takes Dr Finlay to the pub

Fin’s Fourteenth Adventure

May 14th 2017

National Walking Month and Mental Health Awareness Week

Fin had been doing some reading to see what he could do to help Dr Finlay, whom he was worried about.  His research told him that indeed there were lots of things they could do and that they fell into five groups.

The first of these groups is called Connect which meant that Dr Finlay needed to get out more and meet more people.  Whether he liked the idea or not!!

This would take bravery and a little cunning on the part of both Fin and Dr Finlay.

“Don’t you fancy a pint of beer?” asked Fin.  “Maybe,” said Dr Finlay who then came up with his normal excuse “but I’m a bit tired after a day’s work”.  “All the more reason to relax for a while in that pub across the road The Jolly Waggoner and if you take me with you I will let you sketch me while you enjoy your beer.”

This cunning plan meant Dr Finlay would spend a gentle hour or so drawing and having a quiet drink rather than worrying and he would have a few people around which he could get used to without having to talk to them.

So off they went and here is the result of their first outing in Fin’s campaign to bring out the artist in Dr Finlay.

Dave's sketch 15 May 2017


Tomorrow as they say was to be another day.

—Dr Finlay
May 14th 2017

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Dr Finlay’s Walking Stick: Not Enough Bark

Fin’s Thirteenth Adventure

May 13th 2017

National Walking Month and Mental Health Awareness Week

Fin had started to get out and about and was probably seeing as many people as he did trees.  What was he learning about them?

There were lots of different ones, just like trees, but basically, like trees they had a lot of similarities too.

There were small ones, large ones, young ones and older ones but when you got close to them you had the chance to notice in more detail the differences.

Today he got the chance to see what that might look like.  Up close some people seemed to have a very thin layer of bark, or what they called skin.  Others had much thicker layers, it seemed that older peoples’ skin certainly was thicker than younger peoples.

Very small young people seemed to cry a lot as a way of talking and older people seemed to talk a lot instead of crying.  Some people didn’t talk or cry and these were the ones with very thick bark.

Fin looked at himself and saw he was fairly sturdy with a good layer of bark and then he looked at Dr Finlay.

Dr Finlay had bare patches in his bark, wounds where he had been damaged and some of the wounds looked very sore indeed.

Fin decided that Dr Finlay needed better bark and to become a lot more resilient against the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” something Fin’s ancestor Shake Spear had written about.

This would be part of the adventures Fin would invent for Dr Finlay.


Tomorrow as they say was to be another day.


Dr Finlay May 13th 2017

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A Free Range Internship Experience at Church Farm

Coming to Church Farm as an intern was probably one of the best decisions I made in the last year. Right at my first days at the farm I fell in love with the beautiful surroundings, the lovely animals and my most favourite spot at Church Farm, the Orchard. Coming here is not just a working experience, but an experience going though school of life. I had the great opportunity to work in many different departments at the farm such as the Café, the Shop and Events, Horticulture and Rural Care, what brought my week not just a good mix but constant confusion for my five different bosses. It gave me the chance to work with so many different and interesting people and do so many things I’ve never done before in my life.

Judith with apple

I learned hundreds of worlds and expressions (“jiggery-pokery” is one of my favourites), how to carry three plates at a time, and I got an introduction into English cooking and baking, learned how to best pick up a chicken to pet it, that parsnips love the spot where they grew and are not happy to leave it (muscle power is required) and that the most important thing about packing 300 orders of Christmas meat is concentration and therefore no music or singing – a bit of whistling is ok though. 😉 I’ve been driving on the wrong side of the road, changed gears with my left hand and learned the game sh**head which turned out to be one of my favourite card games, as long as I’m not the “Scheißkopf.” This list would go beyond the size of this page, but every day was different.

Judith pruning

All these experiences and many more are combined with special moments I shared with people at the farm. People I did not just work, but also live with, for six months, what is not always easy going, but part of the Church Farm Experience. I want to thank Tim for giving me this opportunity and all the people working, volunteering and visiting the farm—you make it the place it is. I will never forget these very special six months I spent here, all the good, the bad, the happy moments and memories, and all the people I had the pleasure to meet.

A unique experience at a unique place!

Judith, 26, Tyrol, Austria



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Wildlife at Church Farm

Hertfordshire National History Society is inviting participation in a new wildlife survey.  According to their website, “The last organised county survey was started in 1970, and resulted in the publication of Michael Clark’s book, Mammals, Amphibians and Reptiles of Hertfordshire, in 2001. “  This is a joint project and the team also includes the County Mammal Recorder, University of Hertfordshire, Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, Hertfordshire Environmental Records Centre, and the Herts Amphibian and Reptile Group.  The website details how residents can also get involved and submit data for the survey.  On the Mammal Atlas Page you can see the data recorded so far.

On the 14 and 15 May 2016, licenced surveyors undertook a survey of the wildlife at Church Farm for this project.  Using five traps for small mammals, and observation, the surveyors recorded:

Common Shrew (10)
Wood mouse (9)
Badger (4)
Field Vole (1)
Pygmy Shrew (1)
Bank Vole (1)
Great Crested Newt (1)
Smooth Newt (1)
Fox (1)
Grey Squirrel (1)

At Church Farm it is important to us to farm in a way that enhances the beauty of the countryside and the conservation of wildlife. We have 5 badger sets on the farm as well as barn owls and red kites living next door. Furthermore, last spring, a group of ornithologists spotted over 30 different species in a morning. For five years in a row now the grey partridges have successfully bred and the local wildfowl population is booming.

The idea of an ecological approach to farming is to have intimate diversity of all species. At times we have hosted bat walks this year, as the farm is alive with bats at night. All of this is down to providing hedges, beetle banks, new woodlands, wildflower mixes, pollen and wild bird seed strips.





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Mission Impossible?

Everybody knows that farming is hard work! What we are trying to do at Church Farm isn’t easy, but how hard is it actually?

Church Farm, Ardeley Community Interest Company is  a small family farm, run on ecological principles. The farm grows a variety of crops and orchard with old traditional varieties, and also breeds the livestock you would like to see on a traditional farm. The poultry is slaughtered in a small abattoir on site, while the larger animals are slaughtered in Chelmsford and butchered on site. We also run a village shop and pub.


Small family farms are disappearing and being bought up by larger farms, just because they aren’t economically viable. Farmgate food prices have fallen to the lowest level recorded in the last five years, according to the United Nations.

At Church Farm we try to grow a full diet for people with as much variety in vegetables as possible, which makes it very hard to mechanise anything. If you grow hectares and hectares of the same crop you can invest in specialist equipment and machinery to seed, plant and harvest your crop but at Church Farm, Ardeley CIC most of this work is done by hand.

Natural England and the National Trust claimed 60% of England’s orchards had disappeared since the 1950s. Orchards are disappearing due to supermarket power demanding apples all year round—including out of the British season—that can be shipped and stored for long periods. They also demand disease-free apples with a decent profit margin and want a guarantee of consistency of shape. Church Farm orchard has 700 trees with 120 varieties of traditional fruit trees, which don’t meet all these conditions.

All of our livestock: cattle , sheep, pigs and poultry, are free range and reared in a high welfare system with requires a higher staff input than intensive systems and makes it less economically viable.  While we have been cross breeding with some of our rare breed livestock, Church Farm Ardeley CIC still maintins some rare breeds. Breeds of livestock become rare when their specific characteristics are no longer required or economically viable. Rare breeds are important to conserve for their genetic diversity that might otherwise be lost forever.

Abattoirs and butchers have been disappearing rapidly because of new legislation by the fresh meat standards that required upgraded facilities, which increases operation and by-products costs. In 1996, 800 artisan abattoirs were operational but this declined to 145 by 2007.  But Church Farm Ardeley CIC set up its own  poultry abattoir in 2009.

The common pressures facing rural shops in all areas of the country are competition from supermarkets, online shopping and changing demographics.  The New Economics Foundation (NEF) reveals that between 1995 and 2000, the UK lost 20% of some of its most vital institutions: corner shops, grocers, high street banks, post offices and pubs.

400 village shops closed in 2008 but Church Farm Ardeley started one in 2011.

In 2014, 31 pubs a week closed, but Church Farm, Ardeley CIC took over the running of the Jolly Wagonners in Ardeley in 2014.

We are also trying to inspire a new generation of farmers as the average age of the UK farmer is 59, as well as reconnect people with food and farming.

 So, how hard it is to run a farm like Church Farm, Ardeley CIC and making it economically viable?

Very hard indeed! Church Farm Ardeley CIC is combining at least 8 businesses that are hard to make economically viable and 8 years on we are slowly getting there.

Tim, Emma and Adrian have the guts and determination to take on this mission. They are helped by an incredible bunch of highly motivated and skilled team of staff, interns, volunteers and Co–Farmers to make this impossible mission possible.

A great thanks to all our customers, supporters and Co-Farmers who support this way of farming in 2016.

In 2017 we will continue to supply you with excellent vegetables, fruit and meat, a farm to enjoy and reconnect you with where your food comes from.