Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience


Leave a comment

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

 

 


Leave a comment

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.

—Aimee

 

References:
http://hnhs.org/article/mammals-reptiles-and-amphibians-new-countywide-survey
http://mammal-atlas.hnhs.org/

 


Leave a comment

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.

20170103_114908

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.

Ann

Sources

https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/structure-of-the-agricultural-industry-in-england-and-the-uk-at-june

 http://farmbusinesssurvey.co.uk/DataBuilder/defra-stats-foodfarm-farmmanage-fbs-UK_Farm_Classification.pdf

 http://www.face-online.org.uk/resources/factsheets/discovering/rarebreeds.pdf

 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11353767

 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/11283995/The-real-reasons-for-the-tragic-demise-of-the-British-pub-industry.html

 http://tna.europarchive.org/20120419000433/http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/board/fsa080504a2.pdf

 


Leave a comment

George Orwell and the Jolly Waggoner

JWNot everyone is aware of history but a village has it’s tales of the past as much if not more than other places.  Things of truth and legend spread quickly, get embellished over a pint or two and then grow into epic stories of derring do.

The Jolly Waggoner which is also run by Church Farm and indeed by Tim’s brother Adrian has a long history and like the Church and the School and the Farm is a hub of social gatherings.

It is also a place of learning and earning with a new apprentice in place.

school hippo

 

 

Hippocrates revisiting his old school in Ardeley.

 

 

church harvest

 

 

 

 

 

Religion and Science side by side!

 

 

 All of us struggle at times, and some have more things to struggle against than others, and the farm and country life has an attraction and compassionate space for those who may be finding the urban life too difficult.

It is not unlike A Place of Refuge, a beautiful book by Tobias Jones, about setting up a piece of woodland and then opening it up to those who feel attracted for one reason or another.

George Orwell, the famous author of Animal Farm, who lived for many years in nearby Wallington, also wrote about his experience of being a kitchen porter in Down and Out in Paris and London.

It was from this humble role that people can move on, like Liam, one of our previous interns, who has now gone on to open his own restaurant in St Neots.  Stuart has now joined the team under Adrian’s tutelage and with support from North Herts College and was recently heard to say “the kitchen should be the cleanest room in the house.”  For a young man making his way in the world this was quite an insight and sign of his progression in a short space of time since coming to the farm.

washing up bunny

Washing up for how many!!!!

 More history could also be in the making from the Jolly Waggoner with secret talks about recreating the heady days of 1966 when England won the World Cup and mutterings of helping the school replace its broken goal posts with a charity replaying of the epic final.

Anna football

Anna displaying her football skills born thirty years after England’s victory.

Where were you fifty years ago?

 With apologies to residents and owners of the Village Green the training pitch has been removed to Squitmore Spring, an ancient field of couch grass, now beginning to resemble a piece of England’s Green and Pleasant Land.

world cup trophy

 

 

The Jules Rimet Trophy or World Cup.

 


Leave a comment

Going into Space with a Goat!

Many people will know that the Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space but before he made his epic journey to look at our beautiful planet a dog had been there first.

earth

Our one and only Planet Earth

Leika was the name of that dog and it’s journey is noted in the lovely film “My Life as a Dog” this is one of Sid the Sheepdogs favourite films.

Istvan and Sid

Sid training one of the police team (Istvan, who works on the farm)

Fred is our Pygmy Goat who can be pretty fierce for a pygmy and it’s best to keep your eye on him at all times.

Fred

What strange eyes you have, Grandma!

The Spacegoats we are talking of here are a local band who have played at the Jolly Waggoner at our Open Mic night last year and again at our Awards evening at the beginning of April.

Awards night

The Spacegoats and some of our Award Winners at the Jolly Waggoner

They were brilliant and helped good evenings become great ones.  Peter the German intern who has recently returned home used to say that everything is improved with music and he may be on to something there.

So thank you to Peter and the Spacegoats and Fred.

Peter and rabbit

Aug Wiedersehen Pet (e)

The White Rabbit says a Big Thank You to one of the hardest working and most talented interns it is possible to meet.

 

 


Leave a comment

You Can’t Bleat It

lamb course class

The first of our two lambing experience groups saying goodbye to their infants

Somehow the lambs get to everybody and perhaps this year even more than last.

24 little ones running around Home Field needing to be fed five times a day is exhausting, so thank you to everyone who came to help us and we have a pretty good idea that is was something that you enjoyed too.

This year in addition to the lamb feeding we had the chance to run a couple of classes for those interested in the delivery of the lambs and I think it is fair to say that these days were a real delight and also insight into the hard work put in by all our shepherdesses through the season.

We have had early morning and late night shifts going on until every ewe had given birth, with a particular eye on multiple births and first time mums.

So much of this unseen work goes on to bring people their food, and while it is very hard work, the peace and tranquillity of spending time around Long Bottoms Field is something rather special.

lamb course sheep

One Shepherdess in particular stands out in her contribution to our lambing season and beyond, and who, sadly for us, will be leaving the farm, but happily for us will be working at our sister site in Aldenham.

That is Charlotte, who is constantly cheerful, brilliant with both people and animals, and gets up to look after her horses while even the rest of us early risers are still in bed.

Remarkable, and a remarkable achievement this year, again, by the whole group of people, and of course sheep who have helped us through such a challenging time of year.

lamb course Charlotte middle

Charlotte in her special trousers in the centre with Sheep and Shepherd/esses

lamb course bags

Emergency rations!

 


Leave a comment

Many Happy Returns

Some Birthdays we like to remember, some we like to forget but usually somewhere along the way we will celebrate them in one way or another.

Tim the Farmer reached his 50th birthday recently and tried to keep it fairly quiet but word got out and he had a few surprises.

Tim Roger tractor - Copy

Tim wondering why no one had wrapped up his Birthday present!

These included a Special Edition of this newsletter with photos supplied by his family to embarrass him.  A group of students fed 50 trees for him in the Vicars Orchard, and he had at least two surprise cakes with the big 50 written on them.

Uni challenge group

Students from North Carolina wishing Tim a Happy Birthday.

Tim and some of his friends spent the night in some of the cabins on the farm and then found their way to the café for breakfast.

Another of our visitors had other ideas and booked dinner in the Jolly Waggoner but her guests had to earn their dinner with a good walk around the farm after some spectacular duck herding.

herding ducks

Magnificent duck herding by this birthday group.

The farm is getting busier now with lamb feeding, butchers and farmers for the day getting unique experiences, often for a birthday and children’s parties heading off on farm tours on the trailer to feed the animals.

lamg and toy

Lots of birthdays on the way for those Airies
amongst you and also for many of our lambs.

For all of you with birthdays coming up under the sign of the Ram we would like to wish you a very happy birthday.