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Field Notes - News from the Farm

1st April - 7th April

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?

Hard work being a calf!

This week, we celebrated the arrival of new life on the farm, and we couldn’t be happier to share the news! Last Monday, one of the heifers, who was born on the farm three years ago, gave birth to a healthy male calf, and a few days later her mother also had a bull calf. Both have been doing brilliantly and we are hoping the other two will calve soon. 

In between rain showers, we’ve also been busy sowing seed for a herbal ley. As part of our eight-year rotation and environmental stewardship scheme, we sow one of our fields each year with a diverse mix of grasses, legumes and herbs, helping to enrich our soil and promote biodiversity. These plants stay in the ground for four and a half years and are grazed by the sheep and cattle. Like many other farmers, we’ve been awaiting the right weather conditions, and luckily, the sunny weekend and our free draining soil at the top of the farm meant the soil was just the right temperature for germination. Ian cultivated the soil to create a seed bed and sowed the seed with a seed drill, before scattering buckwheat using a seed fiddle. Buckwheat acts as a nurse crop, aiding the growth of other plants. The field was then rolled and the rain showers that followed should help the seeds to germinate.

In other news, we’ve welcomed a flock of 80 sheep to the farm! They grazed a cover crop on the arable rotation for two days before moving to our heritage orchard, where they'll graze on the long grass surrounding the trees. Not only will this provide the sheep with nutritious forage, but their grazing will also help to keep the orchard neat and tidy. Ruby and Phoebe from the Cafe team got roped in to help move the sheep but the sheep decided to take a detour which resulted in some mud covered clothes and a lot of laughter!

Events Recap: What’s on at FarmED?

Lunchtime Talk - From Farming to Bookselling

A wonderful Q&A session, where everyone got involved!

On Thursday, we hosted an inspiring talk in our library led by Patrick Neale, founder of independent bookshop Jaffé & Neale. In a relaxed conversation with FarmED’s Ian Wilkinson, Patrick spoke about his journey from growing up on a small dairy farm to finding his passion in bookselling. 

Patrick has been running Jaffé & Neale bookshop for 35 years, and, as the years have gone on, he has noticed more and more similarities between both farming and bookselling. He delved into the pressures of running a small business and the importance of shopping local, connection with the community and customers, as well as recounting his memories of growing up on a small, family-led farm. Patrick recommended some of his favourite books, including the brilliant Native by Patrick Laurie. You can find this for sale in Patrick’s bookshop, based in Chipping Norton. 

Jaffé & Neale are our festival bookshop for the Farm & Food Literature Festival we’re hosting in May. Owners Patrick and Polly will both be at the event selling signed and dedicated copies of the speakers' books. It’s set to be a brilliant day so don’t miss out - click here to book your ticket. 

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

This week, our menu has featured a whole host of delights, including a cauliflower and lentil dahl, a sandwich filled with hummus, rocket pesto, and roasted vegetables, and a vibrant salad bowl made up of a parsnip, leek, and purple sprouting broccoli slaw, harissa crispy quinoa and a chickpea, pesto and leek salad. All of our veg comes from our on-site kitchen garden, meaning we vary our menu depending on what’s in season. This week, with an abundance of cauliflowers, leeks, and broccoli, they have taken centre stage in our creations!

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

One of our happy volunteers helping to erect the caterpillar tunnel!

This week in the garden, we took a break from our regular shares and have been busy ticking off various jobs amidst the unpredictable weather. We’ve encountered numerous April showers, enjoyed brief glimpses of spring sunshine, marvelled at enchanting rainbows, and even weathered a visit from Storm Kathleen. 

On Thursday, we erected our brand new caterpillar tunnel (aptly named after its resemblance to the insect). Despite blustery conditions, the team, alongside volunteers, got stuck in and managed to get the tunnel up in record time. This polytunnel will soon house peppers, fennel, and beetroot, and can be moved along our patch. Later in the day, we focused on hoeing, weeding, and sprucing up our next outdoor growing space, along with planting over 8500 onions. These onions will be harvested in early autumn, giving us a steady supply for our customers throughout the winter and into the following spring.

The rest of the week was spent getting on top of our long-list of April jobs: weeding garlic beds, planting the first of the potatoes and kale, and harvesting over 100 tulips for the FarmED Cafe. As we enter the ‘hungry gap,’ a natural lull in the farming calendar between the end of winter crops and the readiness of spring crops, all hands are on deck for planting, preparing and clearing ready for the busy season ahead. All in all, we had a very productive week, and the team were left feeling windswept, tired but ultimately happy as they entered the weekend. 

Look at all those onion bulbs!


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