Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience


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What’s Growing

Eva, who leads our horticulture team, sat down with me, Moles seed catalogue in hand, to talk about what’s growing at Church Farm this year.  As winter might hopefully be drawing to a close, it’s time to get excited about plans for new crops and setting seeds.

This year promises new varieties of traditional crops, Jerusalem artichokes and lots of colour.

At the end of March, Eva and her team had already set 2000 leek seeds and many spinach seeds, had two varieties of mange tout growing, and were ready to begin setting tomato seeds.  Eva says we are a bit behind last year, due to the lingering cold and snow we have had.

Mange tout, the year’s first crop, will come in green and purple.  There will be three varieties of beetroot grown—one in traditional red/purple, a golden one, and a red and white striped variety called Chioggia.  This year’s French beans will be green, yellow, some climbing and some dwarf.  The team will be planting cherry tomatoes (small) and beefsteak tomatoes (large).

This year Church Farm is expecting to produce more strawberries for a longer harvest period, due to last year’s planting.  This year, 500 new summer raspberries will go in, to increase the raspberry yield in coming years.

Last summer, Eva learned about Jerusalem artichokes from an enthusiastic chef in the Jolly Waggoner and will be growing them this year.

Jerusalem artichokes are sweet and almost garlicky and mushroomy and gorgeous. Although called artichokes they’re actually tubers – like rough and ready potatoes. You can scrub and roast them whole like mini jacket potatoes and split them open, drizzled with a little chilli oil. You can even use them in a salad with smoky bacon. A Jerusalem artichoke’s best friends are sage, thyme, butter, bacon, bay, cream, breadcrumbs, cheese and anything smoked.”

—Jamie Oliver

Hopefully, you will enjoy something new this year, alongside the mainstays of lettuce, carrots, parsnips, cucumber, broad beans, runner beans, and courgettes.  Would you like to see these things growing?  Be sure to include horticulture and the polytunnels on your next walk around the farm.  Are you having a weekly delivery from Church Farm?  You can – it’s easy, at churchfarm.shop.

Aimee

veg pics

Photos from Moles Seeds, with permission.

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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

  • Coppicing of Squitmore Spring Woods and thinning in the 5 new woods will be 20180116_131924going on in early February.
  • 90+% of species in woodland live on dead wood. Leaving brash and lumps to rot is essential to the bugs.
  • Planning Hedge Planting Days in February – volunteers are welcome as we aim to restore Lowany End Field hedge.
  • 100s of field fares in Upany. Covey of 12 grey partridge hanging out in Lowany End wood. Fallow Deer visiting at night.
  • Snow melt led to huge rise in the water table and all ponds full to brim as of new year.
  • 1880 field drain that runs into the lane from Upany is still running well all these years later.
  • 1940s ditch dug by Italian prisoners along long bottoms is overflowing.
  • One acre of new Summer Raspberries to plant as soon as it dries out.
  • Cattle are doing well in winter quarters. The new roof is making a good saving on straw.
  • Little Trumpeter and all the male cattle are separated till breeding season starts again. Ditto with the rams.
  • Rams have to wait 11 months for conjugal visits – is that a word? –. The bull we will let in again with the ladies in August.
  • The two Large White Boars however spend all their lives with the ladies who are remarkably receptive from about 6-7 days post weaning of their litter.

—Tim

 


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Thank you, Viv and Istvan

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Just before Christmas, our reporter Holly and newsletter editor Aimee sat with Viv and Istvan, as they were taking a break from plucking, to talk to them about their future plans.  Viv and Istvan were at Church Farm for nearly two years, and have returned to Hungary to get started with their own small farm.

 We asked many questions, about their time here and their future plans.  Viv worked in horticulture, the farm, box scheme, the shop and café and on many weekends cared for the Rural Care animals.  Istvan has been working on the farm, driving tractor, caring for pigs and cows and poultry, and preparing poultry for Christmas orders.  They were happy to talk to us about their future plans.

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 Holly asked them if they have enjoyed their time at Church Farm.  Istvan answered,

….sometimes good or bad, in two years, working 6 days a week.  When we look back in five years, we will be smiling, not crying.

When we talked to them they were preparing to leave.  Viv enjoyed cooking while she was here, and there are many reports about wonderful cakes she made for birthdays and other occasions. She said she had much to pack up from her kitchen here.  Istvan said she can’t take everything with her!

 They have many things in their caravan to send home by trucks.  They have to pack up things and send 75kg. They have a 100 year old house with their land and yes they did to enjoy lots of cooking and things to put for their Christmas.  In their future to get married in June and to hope to have three or four children.  They will work really hard in their life with their children to grow up with their animals. They will start to grow vegetables as well as the animals are the best with a good place to stay to watch the views on their farm.  They are making their own plans for their own farm and they will start with the smaller animals: two guinea pigs, rabbits, two dogs, mixture of animals, pigs, goats, poultry with the eggs, ostrich, honey bees in their new areas.

Viv and Istvan both grew up with animals and growing vegetables, so for them it is natural to go back and get started with their own farm.  Istvan said that he thinks a farm is a good place to raise children, and they are both looking forward to starting a family soon.

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To Viv and Istvan:  You all hopefully to have a nice time and we all see you all some point and we hope you all to have a nice time there and over Christmas and New Year and don’t forget about us and Church Farm too.  We all miss you here at the farm.  Thank you for your hard work, smiles and cakes!

 To all our readers:  Merry Christmas and New Year and Happy New Year to you all and your children from Holly.

Holly and Aimee

 


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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