Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience


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From the Farmer

  • We will continue to grow the Farm, Rural Care, education partnerships, and school visits, which currently employ over half the team.
  • Pub, Café, Food Production and Catering improvements are planned, as we are investing in a new team headed by Becca who is overseeing in a new post.
  • Recruited for new post of customer experience director – Claire will be joining us 20th March to oversee all aspects of shop, retail, visitor experiences, events, reception, and meet and greet.
  • Camping and glamping is expected to be the same number of people as last year but higher spend per head with us providing luxury tipi tents and glamping extras.
  • Improving the farm trail and membership offer.
  • Online Farm Shop, Farm Box Delivery, Meat for the Week, Wholesale outlets—We are opening up Free Friday delivery to all of Hertfordshire and North London.
  • Developing and continuing to grow the market for our food and produce at Aldenham Country Park which we run, and has 200,000 visitors a year.
  • Developing the Café and Farm Shop at Aldenham.
  • Creating additional apprenticeships following on from recent successes.
  • We will increase number of breeding cattle from 34 to 60 between Church Farm and Aldenham.
  • No increase is planned for other livestock and poultry.
  • We aim to grow 2 acres more field vegetables—extra pumpkins, carrots and parsnips.
  • Growing Maris Piper spuds this year.
  • Corporate Days out in the week—real activities for team building events helping on the farm.
  • Quiet Family Camping – we will continue to ensure that neither fellow campers nor neighbours are disturbed by amplified music and aim to have zero complaints on this again.
  • We are giving up the weddings and music events that we did up to 2016, which has resulted in a £60,000 revenue reduction. Plans this year include addressing this.
  • We will be planting 2 acres in plots of the farm this year for butterflies and bees: Sainfoin, Winter Vetch, Alsike Clover, Red Clover, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Lucerne, Black Knapweed and Musk Mallow.

Tim

 

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Lucerne

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The Hungry Gap

This time of the year in a British type climate is traditionally called ‘the hungry gap’. It is the time of the year between January and May where traditionally the food store for winter was running out and the new crops are still nowhere near ready for harvesting.  It makes you think of how our ancestors would have stored and preserved their supplies for the hungry gap. It must have been so hard to keep themselves fed without imports from warmer climates and special temperature/ humidity controlled storage containers.

One method used to store vegetables would have been clamps.  Clamps were first used in the 16th Century to keep harvested potatoes, but carrots have also been stored this way. A trench was dug round the base of the clamp to take away any rain that fell on it. The potatoes or carrots were placed on a thick layer of straw and then covered with more straw and earth, all mounded up in a triangular shape. And if this wasn’t enough of a performance, there were holes, plugged with straw, to ensure good ventilation. Good air circulation is vital when storing any fruit or vegetables.

At Church Farm we store our potatoes in huge wooden boxes resembling a clamp. Over the years we have learned the hard way about how important it is the air is not too humid and the potatoes are separated from each other by layers of straw.

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This year we are also keeping some of the root crops in the ground but adding a layer of mulch on it as frost protection.

The reality is that storing fresh vegetables is hard and even in our shipping containers the conditions are still too humid and we lose much of the produce. This year we lost a lot of our lovely squashes that make such wonderful soup.

The challenge here at Church Farm is with the wide variety of vegetables and fruit we grow to learn a low tech and low cost solution for storing each of them. Again not a small task!

—Ann

 


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From the Farmer

  • 2 tonnes of Seed Potatoes, Maris Piper and Cara and enough Onions have been ordered to plant 2 acres.
  • Soft Fruit pruning proceeds apace, with 800 new raspberry canes to plant.
  • Everything to paint, acres of painting / wood treatments to do, including 3000 posts to treat.
  • Trees to coppice (cut down) in woods, which we leave down on the floor for a year to dry and provide habitat for wildlife.
  • New log splitter at work.
  • Itching to plough. When will the soil dry out to plough this spring? – don’t think it will before March.FB_IMG_1518519025582
  • Greater numbers of cattle on Church Farm this winter as we have had young stock from Aldenham come over (12) in addition to 36 pregnant cattle and 40 plus young stock.
  • Feeding good quality barley straw as well as hay, and haylage to sheep. The breeding ewes still have a few more weeks good grass in Lowany
  • Geese and Ducks are a laying.
  • Rat control major priority over the farm at this time of year.
  • I can’t believe that someone is regularly chucking dog poo bags along the ancient green lane up the middle of the farm.
  • Lambing coming up in mid March.

Tim