Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience


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Spring Clean

This spring we’ve had a proper spring clean that hopefully will continue.

Farms and environmentalists are well known to do a spot of hording. Everything can potentially be repaired or re-used somewhere else, but also on farms there always is an enormous to do list and never any time to repair things.

In the tidy up of a container an old potato grader was found.

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It took a lot of indoor space so my initial thought was to dust it off and put it as a quirky exhibit outside the café. An initial dust off, a wash and a bit of linseed oil and the result is amazing.

I spent a few evenings doing research on the potato grader online and found a wealth of information and created a summary for the sign above it.

This machine is a Cooch and Son’s potato sorter, grader or riddler.  It was bought in 2014 and was used a few times at Church Farm to sort our potato crop. It is still in working order. From the research we have done the machine would have been built between 1906 and 1937.

grader oval

Cooch and Son’s were based in Northampton and were renowned for their agricultural machinery and even won prizes at the Royal Agricultural Show of England RASE with their potato graders.

Originally the potato sorter would have been operated by turning a wheel at the back by hand, which made the conveyer belt work and move the grates horizontally.  Later on the electrical motor from SEM was added to mechanise the process even further.

There is a nice video online to see the machine in action.

Now that I know the history of this machine, it might deserve a roof over it to protect it against the winter rain, which adds another job to the job list!2017_0401_ChFm17_0215

We would like to use some of the old machinery laying around the farm as historical exhibits to add another of layer of interest and educational value to the farm. If anybody would be keen to help cleaning up some of the machinery and help with some of the research to make this happen please contact ann@churchfarmardeley.co.uk.

Ann

 

Church Farm Shop

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Have you visited the farm shop lately? There are some changes afoot.  We know that what our customers want from a farm shop is to have unique local produce. With this in mind we are extending the range of products that are produced here on the farm.

As well as being busy cooking breakfasts and baking cakes, our café kitchen is also used to produce the food that we sell in the shop.  For several years we have produced a range of jams and chutneys, all made with Church Farm fruit and vegetables.  There are very few farm shops doing this.  Beware the mass produced jams which are overprinted with a farm shop’s name.  We also produce a range of ready meals which can be cooked straight from the freezer.  Unlike the frozen meals sold in many farm shops, ours are made in small batches in exactly the same way that you would in your kitchen at home.  You cannot get closer to a home cooked meal without the effort of doing it yourself.  We are now extending the range to include a number of desserts.  We have chosen traditional recipes including rhubarb crumble and bread and butter pudding, all enough for two to share.

We are also now selling a range of soups.  Again made in our kitchen using Church Farm vegetables.  These are for sale alongside our homemade sausage rolls and scotch eggs with plans to extend our range of homemade deli items available over the summer.

So whether you are local or a day visitor we hope that you will take home a real taste of the farm and something that you cannot get anywhere else.

Su

 

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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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Horticulture and Harvest

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At Church Farm in horticulture we are outdoing ourselves. We come into a glorious time of the year when just about every seasonal fruit or vegetable is available, or soon will be available, naturally grown. With a kitchen garden, five polytunnels, five acres of soft fruit and heritage orchard, and over five and a half thousand square metres of field crops, it is truly a pleasure to meet the challenge of serving the Church Farm Store, Café, Jolly Waggoner Pub Restaurant, Aldenham Country Park and over 100 Farm Box customers. As we draw breath, we do it with thanks to the small group of amazing dedicated staff and interns from across the world. We couldn’t do it without you.

DSC08285Church Farm is unique in that we invite you to come in and explore where your food comes from; a working farm in a relaxed atmosphere. If you like your fruit and veg we invite you to come and take a tour or simply come in for a wander and see for yourself.

Darren

 

Autumn and an Interview with Eva

Holly and I talked about Autumn and the harvest and interviewed Eva, who works in Horticulture at Church Farm.  Eva says the harvest is starting now.  Look for Church Farm produce in your box or in the shop.

Aimee

We will have a harvest for the barbecue party and DSC08291to play in the leaves and the leaves are dancing in the wind with the birds flying in the strong wind and they do art with the leaves in the craft room. To harvest the strawberries and fruits and the vegetables in the box to delver to everyone in the village and round the farm and be careful of the fence with the wire when it windy and
chilly and strong wind. To change the menu for autumn and to harvest the potatoes and to dig DSC08298up the soil with the potatoes in the bucket and the leaves are falling down from the trees and to put the leaves in the compost for the gardening on the allotment and to rake the leaves up in the Autumn and lots of fun and lots of colours on the leaves are beautiful in Autumn and less of flowers in the winter.

Get more vegetables in October and they do harvest celebration and they cut the DSC08300pumpkins open and the pumpkins turn into orange colour in October for the treats. They have got red currants and pears and all veg everyday a lot of tomatoes and salad and veg for the whole project for a long time in the big garden to prepare the box full of fruits and vegetables for the delivery round the farm.

Holly, Co-Farmer and Reporter