Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience


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College Students Save the Day

shop outsideOn Wednesday 13th September, four North Herts College students had the opportunity to  run the farm store for the day.    They set to work straight away as there was much to do.  “We tidied the shop inside and out”, said Kelly.  “I fed the pigs and piglets with the fruit and vegetables that were out of date and they all loved it!”

Leon logged in the new product and stocked the shelves while Craig and Harry delivered bags of logs to sell.   The floors were swept, the shelves dusted, the windows cleaned, the fridge items date checked but most importantly the customers were served efficiently and with a smile.

“We had to sort the eggs out and log how many go to the café and how many for the shop.  Then we had to bring them to the café”, said Leon.  He added, “I really enjoyed working in the shop because I was able to be in charge of the shop.”

The jobs weren’t limited to the inside as Craig painted an outside door and Harry even unclogged the drains.  The shop has never looked so good!  The customers complimented the students on their helpful attitudes and friendly faces which gave them a great sense of pride.

So a BIG thank you to Craig, Harry, Kelly, Leon and the Rural Care staff on a brilliant job!

Please come back again  🙂

 

 

 

Jill

 

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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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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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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.

 

 


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University Challenge

On March 10th Church Farm played host to a group of exchange students from the University of Hertfordshire and their exchange partners from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, USA.

The group were looking to experience different things during their stay in the UK including some voluntary work in the local community.

24 willing and able students and teachers arrived in the middle of the Hertfordshire countryside to enjoy an afternoon of hedge laying, tree feeding and an exploration of the farm, including feeding lambs and herding ducks.

Uni challenge with shovel

Ginny’s group, while placing manure around apple trees, reinvented themselves as the band, “Holy Crap!”

 

Stefan and Ginny, the group leaders joined in the adventure whole heartedly as did all the students and whilst the farm got its trees fed and hedge laid the students got to meet pigs, lambs, ducks and chickens.

Sid the Sheepdog got to train some new walkers for his Academy and enjoy some time in the orchard while intern Merrick got to practice his photography skills.

Dave and Sid

Chicken Dave being supervised by Sid the Sheepdog.

It was a delightful visit from our Transatlantic cousins and our University neighbours.

Uni challenge group

Ginny’s orchard group having completed their birthday gift to Tim of 50 fed trees.  (It was recently Tim’s 50th birthday.)

 

 


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Wednesday Walkies with Sid the Sheepdog

The SidSA goes TransAtlantic

The SidSA goes TransAtlantic

 

This week Chicken Dave got a bit forgetful and turned up on Thursday but with a whole bunch of people from American and British universities who wanted to learn about the Sid Sheepdog Academy.

It was gratifying that his Academy was now working with esteemed Universities from around the World and helping young people to appreciate dogs.

I ended up getting to train about six students, guiding them around the Vicars Orchard, where they were helping the farm with some tree feeding.

One of the Five Scarecrows on the Farm overseeing the tree Feeding by UNCW University of North Carolina Wilmington. Photograph by Merrick

One of the Five Scarecrows on the Farm overseeing the tree feeding by UNCW, University of North Carolina Wilmington.
Photograph by Merrick

 

They were all much more attractive than Chicken Dave and younger so I gave them a good run about.

We introduced them to the flat noses (pigs) and the chickens (who don’t look anything like Chicken Dave), the lambs and the runner ducks where they practised a bit more herding.  Pretty good they were too.

Sid and Chicken Dave in Vicars Orchard. Photograph by Merrick.

Sid and Chicken Dave in Vicars Orchard
Photograph by Merrick

The Farm has asked me if I can extend my contract to work on Sunday as well this week so that means more biscuits.

It’s All Good.

Ruff.

 


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Wednesday Walkies with Sid the Sheepdog

Sid the winner

Sid the Sheepdog waiting for his walkee.

 

“Ruff” said Sid the Sheepdog as he waited and waited and waited for his walkee to arrive.  Eventually he gave up and heard later on the farm news report that a serious epidemic of manflu had broken out in the close vicinity to Dave the Chicken who had been held in quarantine until the event had passed.

Pathetic thought Sid, here I am with no extra clothes and I never get ill although I always have a wet nose, I don’t think these humans get the idea at all.  They have lost all their hair and got soft, that Adrian chap had the right idea and got quite hairy and then chopped it all off…crazy!

 

pub - Adrian

The Jolly Waggoner Pub where Adrian lives who nearly grew back all his hair.

Sid however was going to have quite a surprise when the quarantine period ended.

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It was Saturday when he heard some strange activity going on outside his home.  He jumped up on the table to look at what was happening and then he realised something.  Chicken Dave was smarter than he had previously thought and knew that being a Sheepdog was the best thing in the world.  Chicken Dave was out practising to be a sheepdog!

Obviously he was rubbish and he wasn’t even using Sheep but the funny two footed beaky creatures which the humans called ducks.  They kept doing their own thing and I was laughing my lead off as they led him a merry dance and of course it wasn’t long after that that he asked for help.

runner ducks

The Runner Ducks relaxing, waiting for Chicken Dave to catch up.

 

What an idiot! He didn’t come to the master for a lesson but some other humans.  At least he picked out some of the smarter, smaller ones who kept close to the ground and actually did quite well.  Another big group managed it but had to put the small one on his head, as well as get help from the rest of their family. ( I knew they would get it as they had a dog looking after them).It still took three or four of them to guide 8 ducks between two buckets which were about five leads apart; I could have done it with my paws over my ears.

I was enjoying myself enormously realising how superior I am to these two legged creatures but then I got the shock of my life.

A really small one, only a bit taller than me when I am on all paws, with funny white hair on top came along and was brilliant.  He got behind them all – basic I know –and stayed behind them – still basic but not everyone gets this far you know and most importantly, after keeping low which he was very good at, was he moved s  l  o  w  l  y.

Dave the Chicken and the young man’s Dad were full of admiration and then I realised it was one of the students from my Sheepdog Academy, SidSA.

No wonder he was so good but don’t let Chicken Dave know that I know he wants to be a Sheepdog.

sheep and hay

The sheep reacting to Chicken Dave’s lie down in the mud on your belly move!

 

Each Wednesday in February, Chicken Dave will lead a leisurely walk around the Circular Walk at Church Farm.  We will meet at the Café for an 11:00 start, and the walk will take around 45 minutes (around 3 miles), finishing at the Jolly Waggoner Pub across the road.

Date for your diary:   24th

 Chicken Dave is a qualified Walk Leader with The Countryside Management Services of Herts County Council and has been helping on the farm for over a year.