We would like to start by wishing you a very Happy New Year and a warm welcome back to Field Notes. Each week we will be bringing you all the news from FarmED: from what’s happening in the fields and hedgerows, to updates from the farm to fork café and the conference barn, a space where people from all walks of life meet to find out more about regenerative agriculture. Come with us on a one-of-a-kind journey as we ride the natural highs and lows of farming life.
What’s new at FarmED
Before we even had a chance to reflect on the events of the past year, 2024 kicked off with the Oxfordshire Real Farming Conference (ORFC), the biggest agroecological conference in the world. ORFC brings together farmers, growers, activists, policymakers and researchers from different countries who are interested in transforming our food system, and this year marked the conference’s 15th year. Seven members of the FarmED team attended venues across Oxford for two days of inspiring talks, passionate conversations and groundbreaking initiatives. The team manned a stall where they spoke to attendees about what we do, what courses we have on this year and how people can get involved with all things FarmED. FarmED’s founder, Ian Wilkinson, gave a brilliant talk titled ‘Demonstration, Destination and Diversification’ to round off the conference. With guest speakers from regenerative farms Conygree Farm and Nancarrow Farm, it attracted a full house and people left feeling filled with fresh inspiration to see them into the year. More than 3,500 people attended the conference overall, making it a huge success.
From L to R: Abi, Jade and Danielle representing FarmED at ORFC
A Time to Reflect
January, while often thought of as a time of new beginnings and exciting changes, is also a natural time for quiet reflection. As wildlife hibernates, nature too lulls and the days feel cold and dark. This is our invitation to slow down, take stock, and lay plans for the year ahead.
Since the conference, things have slowed down a little here at FarmED and in the weeks before our courses start for the New Year, we have had a chance to reflect on our highlights of 2023.
2023 was by far our busiest and most successful year to date, with over 25,000 visitors making their way down the driveway. We also hosted 111 farm walks and 71 courses - each as inspiring as the next. Some highlights included: our Farm & Food Literature Festival in May; hosting an evening with Prue Leith celebrating her latest book, Bliss on Toast; attending Groundswell (a regenerative agriculture festival); hosting Oxfordshire Art Weeks, and, of course, welcoming faces new and old to the farm, including a whole host of wonderful work experience students throughout the year.
So, it’s been a successful year to say the least. As we look ahead to 2024, we invite you to christen your new calendars with the following dates:
Save the Date
How to set up a CSA: Thursday 1st - Friday 2nd February
Did you know that we have our very own Community Supported Agriculture enterprise here on the farm? If you’ve wandered down to the polytunnels beyond the main car park, you may have seen it in action. The Kitchen Garden People is a brilliant example of what a successful CSA looks like - a business model which is fast becoming one of the most resilient choices for both growers and small-scale farmers. On this course, “How to set up a CSA”, you’ll hear from KGP’s head growers Emma Mills and Dan Betterton, as they share their first-hand experience establishing and managing a CSA vegetable enterprise. The course will consist of inspiring talks, practical site visits, as well as Q&A’s delivered by the FarmED team. The course will also touch upon a whole host of other CSA enterprises, including cut flowers, eggs, dairy, meat, honey and more.
So, whether you’re looking for a route into farming, or already have land and are looking to diversify your output, this course is perfect for you. Over two days you’ll develop the necessary skills, knowledge and confidence to start a CSA in your community. You can book your ticket here.
Lunchtime Talk launch - Gate to Plate - Thursday 22nd February
This year we are excited to launch our brand new series: Lunchtime Talks. Hosted every week throughout the year in the FarmED Library, each Lunchtime Talk will consist of a one hour talk from an expert in their field, followed by a nourishing lunch from the FarmED cafe and a chance to discuss what you’ve learnt. It’s a fantastic opportunity to get a taste of FarmED and discover something new, covering the themes of Food & Farming, Nature, and Climate.
Our first talk will be hosted by Pete Russell, founder of Ooooby. Ooooby is an online platform for small farms and local food producers to sell and deliver directly to homes, putting ‘small-scale’ back at the heart of our food system. More than 80 UK farms and food hubs are using the platform every week, so why not come along and find out more? We couldn’t ask for a better start to our series. You can book your ticket here.
If you think you have something to share about your passion, and a Lunchtime Talk would be the perfect platform for you, please submit your idea using this link.
Rural Mental Health - Know the Signs, Make a Difference - 22nd February
Did you know that poor mental health is becoming one of the biggest threats to the rural community? Shockingly, three people within the agricultural industry die by suicide every week (according to the BACP). This course will empower you to make a positive difference and help to combat this statistic. You’ll learn how to spot the early signs of poor mental wellbeing, as well as discover how you can help others and manage difficult conversations.
FarmED is collaborating with The Farming Community Network (FCN) to bring you this unique one-day CPD-accredited course. The day will include a farm walk, refreshments, and good food, and there will be plenty of time for discussion and reflection. You will also leave with a completed FCN workbook. Sign up here.
As well as the courses mentioned above, keep an eye on our website for more exciting dates for your diary including: our Introduction to Agriculture course, Sheep for Beginners, and our brand new Carbon Clinic. Our Annual Farm and Food Literature Festival on 11th May is not one to be missed either.
January so far has seen us prepping for the year ahead: cleaning our conference barn and Cafe’s from top to toe, taking stock of our store rooms, prepping fresh produce for the Cafe’s reopening, and performing general maintenance jobs around the farm. The team at FarmED are ready to take on the new year and everything that it brings with it. More than anything, we’re looking forward to welcoming your lovely faces back to the farm and continuing to grow and learn together. Here’s to a fantastic 2024!