Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience


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Vicar’s Orchard

Damsons, plums, greengages, cherries, nectarines, peaches, pears, apples and medlars: seven hundred and twenty trees in Vicar’s Orchard: mostly of local varieties. The orchard was first laid out and planted in 2008. Lots of local people came to help plant it. Next year we will be inviting them back to see how their trees have grown. It will be the tenth anniversary of planting, though the trees will be twelve years old. After planting, the orchard got a bit neglected and the labels on the trees wore off, so we didn’t know which was which. We had to recreate the grid on which the trees were laid out. We did this using recycled roof tiles painted with letters and numbers. Then we could match the printed plan to the actual trees. After that I inscribed 710 aluminium labels naming the trees, giving each of them an address and set them twinkling in the branches.

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Some trees had died, so last year we used a memorial fund for Daniel Gomm to purchase replacements in his memory. His relatives and friends came to plant 32 of them. Each tree has to be staked, fitted with a rabbit guard, swaddled with a mulch mat, manured and given a couple of cans of water, so planting a tree is quite hard work, and the orchard soil is often very stony. This year we planted another 12 trees and there are still a few gaps left to fill.

Under Darren’s guidance, Dave pruned the trees this year, and Mary and I scraped up the prunings. Many prunings on the ground had been gnawed, so we decided to pile them around the edge of the orchard, hoping that rabbits and voles would gnaw these rather than the trees themselves. Dave was awarded the title of Supreme Shit Shoveller of the Year, for barrowing over 700 loads of manure, one for each tree. Rabbit guards had to be checked frequently, leaning trees straightened with stakes, and weeds strimmed around the trees – and all this recorded in the orchard log which keeps track of each tree.

Shit award

Blossoming in the orchard starts with the damsons and plums, followed by the cherries, nectarines and peaches and by the end of April the apples and pears are in bloom. There’s some mowing to do but until fruit picking time it’s now mainly down to the bees.

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Roger Gomm

 

Church Farm Shop

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Have you visited the farm shop lately? There are some changes afoot.  We know that what our customers want from a farm shop is to have unique local produce. With this in mind we are extending the range of products that are produced here on the farm.

As well as being busy cooking breakfasts and baking cakes, our café kitchen is also used to produce the food that we sell in the shop.  For several years we have produced a range of jams and chutneys, all made with Church Farm fruit and vegetables.  There are very few farm shops doing this.  Beware the mass produced jams which are overprinted with a farm shop’s name.  We also produce a range of ready meals which can be cooked straight from the freezer.  Unlike the frozen meals sold in many farm shops, ours are made in small batches in exactly the same way that you would in your kitchen at home.  You cannot get closer to a home cooked meal without the effort of doing it yourself.  We are now extending the range to include a number of desserts.  We have chosen traditional recipes including rhubarb crumble and bread and butter pudding, all enough for two to share.

We are also now selling a range of soups.  Again made in our kitchen using Church Farm vegetables.  These are for sale alongside our homemade sausage rolls and scotch eggs with plans to extend our range of homemade deli items available over the summer.

So whether you are local or a day visitor we hope that you will take home a real taste of the farm and something that you cannot get anywhere else.

Su

 

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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.

Darren

 

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.

Aimee

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