Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience


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New Chef, New Menus

Have you had a meal in the pub recently?  At the end of April I sat down with Aaron Clarke, the new executive chef for Church Farm, including the Jolly Waggoner, Café and Shop.  He was born and raised in Milton Keynes and came to us not long ago, and has brought along a team he has worked with for the past couple years.  He is producing menus for the pub and café, and producing food for the shop.

chef Aaron

His training has been on-the-job, including time with Michelin star chef Clive Dixon in Cookham at the White Oak and at the “best pub in England,” the Hand and Flowers in Marlow, and also told me that his brother, Shane, has been a huge influence on his career in catering. Aaron held a Rosette at the Deddington Arms in Oxfordshire.  He has been a chef for 10 years and has produced menus for seven years and comes to us with experience, enthusiasm, and a strong work ethic.

Aaron is confident that you will notice improvements at the Jolly Waggoner in the coming months, and would love to speak with you when you are in the pub.  His focus is the customer’s experience, and he wants you to have a good one.  He is committed to growth and improvement.

He wants everyone to know that the pub menu features produce from the farm and is the best it can be.  The quality of the ingredients in all our kitchens is assured, because we can see it all growing and grazing.  You will find a varied menu at the pub, with vegetarian and gluten free choices. He tells me there will be a new menu in the café soon, as well.

Perhaps I can tempt you with a sampling of items from the current pub menu:

Nibbles:  Lamb Scrumpets and Crispy Pork Bites

Starters:  Gin Cured Salmon and Cauliflower and Worcestershire Fritters

Traditional Classics:  Fish and Chips, and Chicken, Leek and Mushroom Pie

Mains:  Beetroot Rissoto, and Church Farm Loin of Lamb

Gin cured salmon

Gin Cured Salmon

 

Aimee

 

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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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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.