Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience


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Why Our Work is Important to Us

There is nothing that Rural Care isn’t involved in at Church Farm, we keep ourselves busy with anything from picking flowers for the shop to hanging a new door in the pub. Our days are diverse and filled with purpose, which is how we like them! Some of the roles we embark on at the farm offer us more than you may think and benefit us as much as the farm.

We offer opportunities for a diverse range of individuals, all of whom have their own interests, strengths, skills and abilities. We are able to tailor a day where everyone is involved in their own way.

This newsletter this was published in has been contributed to by Co-Farmer Holly, then folded by some of the students in our group from Greenside school, some of them have been hand delivered by Co-Farmers who like a walk and are learning about being safe in the community.

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Here are how some of our bigger responsibilities on the farm benefit us and the farm as a whole.

Laying hens
The laying hens offer us routine, which is important to some people.  The job is relatively predictable, there are many tasks involved in completing the job, and everyone finds their role. Harley loves to scatter the food. Luke enjoys collecting the eggs.  Daniel likes to get stuck in mucking out and Sean health checks the hens. Each with our own role, we work as a team and there is a sense of satisfaction and achievement at the end of the session. That then leads onto processing the eggs.  Some people like sorting over a chat about what happened on Eastenders. Florence likes to grade the eggs. Matthew is a keen egg boxer.  Many of the eggs you have purchased from the farm might have been boxed by Matthew. There is a wonderful cycle to chickens and eggs.  We all play our part and the result is our lovely fresh, free range eggs for sale in the shop. All of our Co-Farmers in some way have been involved in the journey those eggs have made to get there. Those eggs for sale in the shop offer us independence skills, confidence, social skills, numeracy and writing skills and a sense that we are part of something that people appreciate.

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Sheep
Sheep are wonderful creatures for us to work with, they are relatively safe, very sensory and are a great platform for us to learn about behaviour, body language, spatial awareness, teamwork and communication. Again, as with the hens, there is a cycle to working with sheep. Their cycle is over a year and starts with the rams being put with the ewes (tupping). Throughout the year there are then numerous tasks such as foot trimming, shearing, lambing and worming. These become part of our own cycle. We know it is spring when the lambs come and we know it is summer when we shear. To work with sheep you have to be aware of their signs and signals, what they are telling us. This can teach us a lot about behaviour, observation and team building.

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Allotment
Rural Care has their own allotment garden.  The idea behind the garden was to grow food for the Co-Farmers to cook with. Each spring the Co-Farmers choose what they would like to grow based on what they like to eat. Throughout the spring and summer the Co-Farmers tend to the fruit and veg they have sown. This again offers many different tasks which altogether result in the fabulous produce they harvest at the end of the summer and early autumn.  Then comes my favourite part, the cooking, as we learn how to turn that variety of veg into something yummy. Again there is an annual cycle that is predictable, the tasks change with the seasons and there is a great reward and sense of achievement at harvest time.

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Our work is so important to us. It’s not just about getting a job done it’s about finding out people’s interests, strengths and abilities and matching them to a wide range of tasks that together make up the farming that we do.

Rozelle

 

 

 


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Carrot Cake

Laura - carrot cake 2017

One of our Co-Farmers has been working in the Church Farm Café kitchen on Thursdays.  She especially enjoys making carrot cake and would like to share her recipe:

Carrot Cake

2 tsp cinnamon
300g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
200g soft brown sugar
4 eggs
250 ml vegetable oil
200g grated carrot

Mix all ingredients and bake at 180° for about 40 minutes. Top with your favourite icing, maybe cream cheese.

 

 


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Lamb Feeding and other Spring Activities

Preparations are underway for the first birth of the year.  The lambing bays have been laid with fresh straw and the ewes are moving into the maternity ward as we speak.

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New intern, Angelina, has arrived from North Rhine-Westfalia in Germany to work in Rural Care and lead the lamb feeding team.  Angelina is studying sustainable agriculture at the University of Applied Science, after WWOOFing in New Zealand three years ago sparked her interest in agriculture.  She will be with us through August.

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Our first lambs are due mid-March. If you would like to meet our hand reared lambs and help us bottle feed them you can book online . Bottle-feeding is £9.95 per person, supervising adults are free. A lamb feeding session will typically last 45 minutes.  You will hear from our experienced staff the latest details about how the lambing is progressing and how special this time of year is on our farm. This activity is wonderful for all ages and everyone can get involved. Bottle-feeding lambs is a wheelchair and pushchair friendly activity.

Booking is essential as this is a popular event.  Please check-in at the Farm Store on arrival.

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Pick up an activity sheet from the farm shop when you get your Farm Day Pass and animal feed, and follow the Farm Trail around, past rabbits, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens and cows.  Along the way there are six painted lambs.  See if you can find them all!  Write down their names and go back to the shop for a prize.

Chick Trail for Easter
During the Easter holidays, pick up an activity sheet from the farm shop when you get your Farm Day Pass and animal feed, and follow the Farm Trail around, past rabbits, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens and cows.  Along the way there are painted chicks.  See if you can find them all!  Write down their names and go back to the shop for a prize.

Egg Collecting
We offer Little Farmers the chance to help with feeding chickens and collecting eggs from our happy Church Farm hens.  Egg collecting is at 11:30 am and lasts approximately 1 hour. Plus, as part of the experience, they’ll get to take half a dozen eggs home with them—eggcellent! You can book online. If you have any questions please call 01438 861 447. Egg collecting is £9.95 per child (this price includes the half dozen eggs and a bag of animal feed), free for supervising adults.

Farm Day Pass
A Farm Day Pass enables you to enjoy access to the farm trail, horticulture garden, woodland play area, home field and vicarage field animals and use of the indoor play room for just £3 per person or just £10 for up to 5 adults and children. Bags of pig, poultry and cattle feed are available at the Farm Store, where you will be given a safety briefing and a free map showing the points where you can feed the animals around the farm.

 

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Scanning Day for Ewes

Scanning day is always a big day here at Church Farm, the ewes are scanned using a mobile ultrasound  machine. They are marked with colours to indicate how many lambs they are carrying, blue is 1 lamb, red is 2 and orange is 3, an orange line on the top of the head is empty. With anticipation we gather the girls for the big scan.  It’s a tense moment when the first one goes through, and this year the girls were not behaving and avoiding the scanning crate at all costs. We eventually got the first batch through, but with all the commotion I missed the first 20 or so. As things started to flow I looked over at the ewes that have been scanned and can just see a sea of orange. My heart sinks, I immediately think they are all empty, our worst nightmare. I look again only to realise they are all triplets, and the panic sets in again!! 15 sets of triplets.

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Overall we are due 149 lambs, with 48 sets of twins and 15 sets of triplets, and the rest singles. A busy spring is ahead of us, but we can’t wait for this magical time of year,  looks like we chose the right Rams for the job!

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If you would like to join us for this special time of year we are running several experience days from family days to overnight experiences. If you have ever been interested in lambing this might be the perfect opportunity to tick something off the bucket list!

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With the 15 sets of triplets we are expecting we will have an awful lot of extra mouths to feed this year and will be offering bottle feeding session from the 25th March.

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Please visit our website for further details or to book one of the lambing experience days or bottle feeding lambs, places are limited so get booking quick!

Rozelle

 


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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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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.

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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

 


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The Tree of Knowledge

The second weekend in October saw our third effort at holding an Apple Day, and it was pleasing to see how things have changed over the last couple of years in terms of people’s interest and knowledge about this annual event.

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A Display of Vicars Orchard Apples

Church Farm only started taking part in Apple Day celebrations in 2014 and have made great strides in popularising the Vicars Orchard supply.

In 2014, we were blessed with a lovely orchard and 700 trees as well as a guest appearance by a Japanese violinist and Geoffrey and Aimee.  A small display of apples was on view but no visitors to the Vicars Orchard.

2015 saw a beautiful Autumnal Sunday, a packed car park and Aimee and the Apple Jacks playing to a long line of apple pressing children and a Rural Care Harvest Party with a Goat.

We had a Radio broadcast, as well as the Offley Morris Dancers celebrating their 60th anniversary.

The Orchard had been tended and fed and was bountiful for the first time since its creation in 2008 and producing apples for the day and for the coming weeks.

This year over a hundred people made it out to the Orchard, Aimee sent a band called Mosaic, including a harpist, and Geoffrey made it three years out of three, despite his budding music teaching career.

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Local musician Geoffrey entertaining outside the Garden Room

 

Apples were pressed almost non-stop by Austrian and English alike and we ran out of apple juice and sold out of toffee apples by lunchtime.  The weather hadn’t been as kind on the day, but the interest in locally grown fruit and vegetables certainly seems to be a rising trend and nature’s bounty continues to provide us with fruit from just 500 or so yards away for the Farm Store, Café and box scheme.

Comments from those tasting their freshly pressed juice included “the best apple juice I have ever tasted,” “much better than from the supermarkets,” “mmmmm,” “good,” “lovely.”

When asked whether they enjoyed drinking the juice or making it more, children seemed torn between the two, perhaps “making it” just shaded the result.

Maybe the growing popularity of allotments, of visits to farms and of an interest in home grown food is coming home to roost and Apple Day is becoming a measure of how this movement is progressing.

Thank you to everyone who came to the farm again this year for Apple Day with big thanks to Mosaic and Geoff and everyone else involved.

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Three of the Beauties of the Farm
A Three Generation Family enjoying Apple Day

 Chicken Dave