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Field Notes - News from the Farm

4th March - 10th March

Welcome back to Field Notes. Each week we will be bringing you 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.

Field Record: What's been happening on the 107 acres of Honeydale Farm?

"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now."

Beautiful blossom from one of our plum tree

The team were blessed by blue skies while pruning

The end of winter has seen a last push to get our tree-related tasks ticked off, and last week, we spruced up our heritage orchard ready for the spring. Ian, Celene, tree expert Danny and caretaker Steve spent a happy few hours in the sunshine; checking ties and guards, pruning branches, repositioning labels and admiring the spring blossom on the fruit trees. 

Danny has also been out tending to our agroforestry strips with his usual care and dedication. He's been on a mission to replace any saplings that didn't quite make it (fortunately, not too many casualties this time around!). Meanwhile, our younger hedges are getting a little TLC as well – weeding sessions are underway, and we've laid down a blanket of our very own wood mulch to nourish their roots.

Steve's been playing the role of plant whisperer by installing sturdy new stakes for the trees that need a little extra help standing up straight. Every little effort counts towards ensuring our orchard will be thriving with fruit come autumn. 

Our orchard tree labels have also been moved in order to keep them out of the way of grazing sheep. We’re hoping to welcome a local flock to the farm this month, and, using the guards as they do as scratching posts, the labels won’t fare well! The labels have been moved from the guards to a new home in the branches of the individual trees, hopefully well out of reach of curious ewe lambs. Here’s to hoping our labels remain unscathed! 

Cafe Catch-Up: What's new in the cafe?

A warm welcome from our daffodil display

This week, Easter preparations are in full swing in the Cafe. Vases of tulips and daffodils greet you as you walk through the door, our decorated hazel tree sits proudly on the counter and Phoebe has been busy making hot cross buns in the kitchen, too. Why not come and sample one (or two) for yourself? 

On Monday lunchtime, we were lucky enough to welcome back D'Accord, our talented guest band. The Cafe was brimming with soulful music and the sound of cheerful chatter could be heard from every table: the perfect start to a new week.

D’Accord is a three-piece band made up of Jenny (accordion), Geoff (double bass) and Bob (guitar). They formed in 2021, and, after holding their initial practice sessions here at FarmED, were invited to become the resident house band. Their repertoire is constantly being expanded to include a wide range of swing, latin and jazz, as well as French waltzes and other traditional cafe music. 

They’ll be playing at FarmED again on the 8th April, so do come along and say hello; they’re always happy to have a chat.

Events Recape: What’s on at FarmED?

Introduction to Agriculture

The group enjoyed a day of learning , followed by a farm walk .

Last Tuesday marked our second ‘Introduction to Agriculture’ course here at FarmED. We welcomed a group of 15 people to the farm, all looking to learn more about the world of food and farming. Their backgrounds varied from smallholders to engineers, with many looking for a career change into the rural sector. 

Our Agricultural Lead, Kate, kicked the morning off by taking the group through the fascinating history of farming and the UK landscape: from medieval ridge and furrow to the Green Revolution in the 1950s and how the focus is moving from just producing more food to looking into environmental improvements. This was followed by a practical demonstration of all the different crops we grow in our fields and a deep delve into each season of the farming year. The group learnt everything from how to tell the difference between wheat and barley to the different names for sheep and what exactly is meant by the term ‘agroecology’. In the afternoon, following a delicious lunch from the FarmED Cafe, the group were led on a farm walk around our demonstration farm. Ian talked about how we’re farming in a way that works with nature, how it can be made possible and the challenges we’ve faced along the way. We were even lucky enough to witness a rainbow as we walked back up to the conference barn for shelter. 

Lunchtime Talk: Getting the Dirt on Soil

Last week, our resident earthworm and compost expert, Danielle, led a Lunchtime Talk on the hidden wonders of soil. She shed light on topics like why it's high time we stopped treating soil like dirt, and how keeping our soils healthy can play a crucial role in combating climate change. With its astounding contribution to producing 95% of the food on our plates, Danielle left us all with a newfound appreciation for the world beneath our feet.

Garden Treasures: What’s been happening down in the Kitchen Garden?

"More grows in the garden than the gardener sows."

It’s safe to say that last week has been very productive down in the garden, with the team working hard in all the changing weather.  On Monday, we reaped the rewards of their hard work with a bountiful harvest of four types of kale: Red Russian, Kale Thousandhead, Hungry Gap Kale and Curly Kale. In this leaner time of the season, it’s brilliant to have a flourishing crop to keep our plates looking colourful! 

Dan, Eddie, Ethan and Emma also planted the first of the broad beans this week. They have been planted as part of our ‘no dig’ system, a process which protects the soil by creating as little disturbance as possible. In a no dig garden, you do not till or dig the soil in your growing areas, instead, laying organic matter on top and letting nature do the work for you. There’s an intricate web of life in the soil, and we’ve recently come to understand just how important it is. In return for minimal disturbance and the inclusion of cover crops, the creatures living in the soil work tirelessly to establish the ideal growing conditions. 

Our Thursday volunteer morning was spent harvesting the last of the carrots, and we filled eight crates worth for our shares. The damaged carrots (nibbled by flies, voles or slugs) have been left in the field to feed the soil.

Our compost loo is also now officially up-and-running, with toilet roll, sawdust and signage. On Friday, Karis from @lawer_woodworking paid us a visit to install our brand new sign. Karis is a talented young entrepreneur from Cornwall, who makes homemade, bespoke wooden pieces using reclaimed wood. Her commitment to sustainability is something we’re inspired by and wish to celebrate. Next time you’re on a farm walk, be sure to stop by and pay it a visit. 

Our brand new compost loo standing proud in the sunshine!


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