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Field Notes - News from the Farm

20th May - 2nd June

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 Cafe 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?

A beautiful view of meadow buttercups, with the Evenlode Valley in the background

Meadow buttercups are out in full force

As we welcome in June, it feels as though summer has truly arrived at the farm. Our wildflower meadows are in full bloom, bursting with oxeye daisies, field poppies, cornflowers, meadow buttercups, and white campion.

The sun is shining, honeysuckles are hanging from the hedgerows and elderflowers are glowing with their tiny cream-coloured buds. Thistles are flowering, and bees are busy pollinating and enjoying the nectar. 

As you walk around the farm, keep an eye out for various species of moths, butterflies, beetles and caterpillars feeding on new plant growth. Grasshoppers and hoverflies forage at ground level for tiny insects, while kestrels and hawks hover up high, scanning the meadows for field voles. 

We’ve been busy moving our sheep using a mob grazing system, rotating the flock through different sections of our herbal ley fields. This technique benefits both the soil and the sheep, with a mix of plants like sainfoin, clover, chicory and trefoil keeping their diets varied and healthy. The sheep nibble the top parts of the plants before moving onto a new section of the field, giving the plants time to put energy down into their roots. This, in turn, promotes plant regrowth and soil fertility. 

In other news, Tony has been harvesting honey from his beehives, and, as usual, we’ve been hosting various events, from a dry stone walling course to a fascinating lunchtime talk on orangutan conservation in Borneo. Read on to find out more…

Events Recap: What’s on at FarmED?

Drystone Walling Course

A group of people learning how to build a drystone wall, in the heavy rain!

The team worked hard even through the awful weather!

Last week, we hosted our popular Drystone Walling Course, and, despite the rain on the first day, the group of eight didn’t let the weather dampen their spirits. Led by Jeff Green, the two-day course was fantastic, featuring plenty of hands-on learning alongside the all-important theory. 

Drystone walling is an ancient craft integral to the British countryside and farming history, especially here in the Cotswolds. Interestingly, drystone walling also plays a key role in conservation, providing homes for small animals like mice, shrews and hedgehogs, and nesting spots for birds like robins. Jeff, a seasoned drystone walling professional, has years of experience building, restoring, and maintaining walls around Bath. Participants learnt not only the basics of the trade, but also gained a firm grounding in both dry stone wall repair and maintenance. 

We’ll be hosting another drystone walling course in the future, so keep a lookout on our What’s On Guide for more details…

Lunchtime Talk: From Borneo to Britain

An orangutan high up in a tree, in a Borneo rainforest

One of Abbie's brilliant photos from her time in Borneo.

Last week, we welcomed our intern, Abi Gwynn, back to the farm for the final week of her internship. Having spent time working in the tropical rainforests of Borneo on orangutan conservation projects, she hosted a lunchtime talk all about her experience. There was a great turnout of over 20 people, as Abi shared everything from the conservation challenges facing the island to how the tropical rainforests of Borneo mirror our British landscape. Her time working on the orangutan conservation project went onto shape her future in more ways than she imagined. 

In the last 40 years, Borneo has lost a devastating 30% of its native forest cover, a story similar to what happened here in the UK a few thousand years ago. Abi, alongside her work as a conservationist, conducted a Masters by Research on the effects of forest fires on orangutan behaviour and health.

Now, following her year at FarmED learning about regenerative agriculture, she has chosen to go down the route of agroecology, working with kitchen gardens to grow organic food for the local community. Abi is now working as a grower at Soul Farm down in her home-town of Cornwall, with plans of setting up her own market garden in the future. We are honoured to have been a part of her journey and wish her every luck and success in her endeavours!

Agroforestry Farm Walk

A group of people looking at an agroforestry strip on a beautiful sunny day in the Cotswolds

The group chatted and bonded over their love of trees

As part of the Agroforestry Open Weekend on the 17th-20th May, we hosted an Agroforestry Farm Walk to discuss the benefits and challenges of agroforestry and showcase our efforts here at FarmED. It was a brilliant morning, with Kate, our agricultural lead, leading the group on a walk through our silvopasture, silvoarable, market garden, orchard and shelter belt systems.

Kate introduced the group to the world of agroforestry, explaining the benefits of growing food among trees, what you should take into consideration when starting out, and how to access funding and support. The group, all from diverse backgrounds, left with a better understanding of agroforestry and a guide to their next steps. 

Hemp Industry Conference

A few members of the FarmED team were lucky enough to attend the UK’s first Hemp Fair and Conference last weekend, hosted by Hempen Organic. Growers, farmers, landowners, seed specialists, and researchers gathered at Hardwick Estate for two days full of inspiring conversations about the future of farming. Talks centred around the ‘crop of hope’, a.k.a. Hemp, exploring its role in crop rotation and the benefits it can bring to the soil. The team also learned from crafters who use hemp fibres for textiles and natural construction, and herbalists who highlighted the crop’s healing properties.

Cafe Catch-Up: What’s new in the FarmED Cafe?

A delicious victoria sponge cake, decorated with edible flowers and fresh strawberries

Our cake counter always looks beautiful, even if we do say so ourselves!

Our Cafe has been brimming with fresh produce from the garden as we come into the summer season, from a victoria sponge cake decorated with fresh strawberries and wildflowers, to a honey-glazed carrot and walnut tart. Our salads are bursting with veg from broad beans, spring onions and kale to rhubarb and baby carrots. Our lunch menu is constantly changing, so pop down to see some of the delights we have on offer that day…

We also welcomed back our wonderful book group to the Cafe last week for their third meeting. This month, the group focused on All Among the Barley, a book recommended by Patrick Neale from Jaffe & Neale. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed this month's read, commenting that it was a  special book and painted a beautiful depiction of rural life. Others also commented on its melancholy feel, wisdom, and themes of mental health, fascism and puberty, reminiscent of childhoods spent in the 1950s. Reading this novel is a wonderful way to learn about nature, and is full of beautiful descriptions of the landscape. The passage below was a stand-out:

‘At dawn, the dew silvered the spiders’ silk strung between the grass blades in our pastures  so that the horses left trails where they walked, like the wakes of slow vessels in still water.’

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

A woman cutting sweet pea flowers in a polytunnel

The team picking sweet peas for the Cafe vases

This week down in the garden, The Kitchen Garden People have been busy planting and harvesting as we get ready for summer. Thanks to the wonderful team of volunteers, they managed to sow carrots, parsnips, and over 1500 squash plants last week. The team also sowed a pollinator mix in our herbal ley strips, including corn cockle, crimson clover, cornflowers, marigolds and coriander. With half-term upon us, we were lucky enough to have some younger volunteers join on Friday, bringing their infectious joy to harvest day. Wildlife was abundant too, with lizards, snails, snail eating beetles, ladybirds, parasitic wasps, moths and bees all making appearances. 

In amongst the bright sunshine and occasional rain showers, we harvested the first of the courgettes, basil, beetroot, chard, and spinach. The Kitchen Garden People team also picked the first punnets of strawberries for the weekly shares and FarmED Cafe, where they’ve been used to decorate cakes, add to salads, and make preserves. The baby wrens nesting in the polytunnel have fledged, their gangly, awkward legs taking their first steps. The tunnels have been filled with the delightful scent of sweet peas, and harvesting borage has felt like holding drops of sapphire in our hands. Here’s to the end of the hungry gap and the start of summer!


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