Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience


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Saying Good-bye to Su and Darren

In May we said good-bye to Su and Darren.

 

Su worked for five years in the Café, cooking breakfasts, and baking cakes, and also making ready meals and jams and chutneys for sale in the Farm Shop.  Her steady presence and friendly greetings welcomed everyone.   You might also have seen her walking her dog, Sid, around the farm.  Su has moved to Derbyshire to work in catering for a wedding venue.  We wish her well!

 

 

Aimee

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Su & Jam

Darren, the man who fell in love with Vicars Orchard.

About 3 years ago, Darren was mainly working in horticulture and coordinating the intern program. He took a well-deserved break and went to visit his family in Australia. On that trip he decided his time had  come  to return to Australia for good. He came back to sort everything out after living in the UK for about 10 years. One evening he strolled around the farm and ended up in Vicars Orchard in bloom and witnessed a beautiful sunset.  The beauty of the orchard and the potential gripped him and he decided to stay.  The ticket to return home to Australia (not a cheap affair) was left unused and Darren started sorting out the orchard that had been mainly left to its own devices since 2008.

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Darren passion for the orchard and knowledge inspired others to get involved and Vicars Orchard in 2017 is definitely something to be proud of!

Ann

 

The Quiet Aussie

Quiet he may have been, but his presence is missed, not least by the Horticulture Team.   Darren took over from me as Leader in horticulture last July, where he used his considerable experience in several countries to continue and improve what is grown in our tunnels and fields;  he nurtured the orchard with knowledge and passion.   Darren’s innate caring nature encompassed all at the farm, with particular emphasis on the interns for whom he felt a sense of responsibility which included  irritation at their untidy habits!

My lasting memory of Darren is our ‘walk and talk’ times when we took the two dogs belonging to Emma and Tim and my black lab for a wander in the woods.   Our conversations went beyond horticulture and we got to know each other in greater depth, and to talk about Oz where I used to live too.  Darren had to leave his lab behind when he first came here and Daisy and I hope he will get another companion soon.

This picture shows how stressful our weekly coffee and cakes meetings were!   Eva has now taken over as Leader.

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Good-on-ya Darren, Eva and I wish you well.

Anne 

 

 

 

 

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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