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?
As December approaches, the nights have been drawing in and the afternoon sun has begun to sink lower behind the hedgerows. This has signalled nature winding down for the winter, as the fields gradually receive less light and warmth. Growth has slowed in the crop fields, animals like deer, rabbits and hares are seeking solace amongst the trees and hedges.
Over the autumn, we allowed many of our hedgerows to grow freely and are now beginning to reap nature’s rewards. A flock of fieldfares has recently graced the farm, feasting on a bounty of berries including hawthorns and sloes. Fieldfares are the largest of the thrush family and can be identified by their distinctive chestnut-brown back, pale grey head and yellow breast. They begin to arrive in the UK in early October, flocking from the colder climates of western Russia and eastern Europe to find a warmer home for the winter.
Any farmer will tell you that winter tends to signal a time of maintenance. For us, this has meant focusing on tasks like oiling up and bringing in machinery as well as replacing dead saplings in our agroforestry strips.
There is truly something magical about the farm at this time of year. Frost is beginning to settle on the grass early in the mornings, casting an iridescent glow around the farm and the smell of sweet silage is beginning to fill the air. This beautiful sunrise blessed the farm on Thursday morning - a true shepherd’s warning with blazing reds, pinks and oranges lighting up the sky.
Shepherd’s warning: a stunning sunrise over the farm
Cafe Catch-Up: What’s new in the cafe?
This week, we have been proud to welcome a new Artist in Residence to FarmED. Andrew Forkner, who is widely considered as one of the most accomplished wildlife artists in the UK, will be displaying his work in the cafe and the library until late December. Andrew is known for his intricate depictions of the natural world, and his delicate use of colour and texture allows for creatures of all kinds to come to life. His beautiful, lifelike paintings of birds look as though they could burst into flight at any moment. Andrew will be selling his work alongside a selection of limited edition prints, books and cards and will be working on a new painting daily from a comfortable space in the library. Don’t be afraid to drop in and say hello.
This week has also seen exciting new changes to our cafe menu. A hot dish of the day will now be on offer alongside the soup of the day, seasonal salad bowl, and ploughman’s platter. This week's delights included a leek, pumpkin and harissa rarebit on a toasted brioche and a leek and cheese pasta bake, crafted with fresh produce from our on-site kitchen garden. Unsurprisingly, these have been very well received by our customers…
Winter warmers: leek, pumpkin and harissa rarebit on toasted brioche
Events Recap: What’s on at FarmED?
On Friday, we hosted a very special guest at the farm. Caroline Lucas (twice leader of the Green Party and MP for Brighton Pavillion) arrived at the farm bright and early and was warmly greeted by our intern, Abi Gwynn. Following an introduction to the history of FarmED over coffee, Caroline then joined us for a farm walk, along with students from Chipping Norton School’s Eco Club, to see regenerative agriculture in practice. Rosalind Marsden, Education Officer for Everyone’s Evenlode, demonstrated a fantastic citizen science water pollution test , which indicated that FarmED’s pond, situated at the lowest point on the farm, contains some of the cleanest water Ros has sampled this year! After returning inside to the warm library, Caroline spoke inspiringly to the students on how young voices are instrumental in making a difference, individually as well as collectively. Over lunch, conversation continued to flow as the group covered everything from the benefits of nature-led learning to green investment.
On Thursday, the newly-formed Sustainability team at Jaguar Land Rover visited us for an away day at FarmED, hoping to facilitate a way of connecting with each other and to discuss climate solutions. Danielle, our Public Engagement Coordinator and earthworm enthusiast, led the group on a farm walk, discussing all things from the food supply chain and soil health to water quality. The group were particularly interested in how they could make a positive impact on a personal level, leading Danielle to create a list of resources for people to take home with them. Why not join one of our Friday farm walks to discover how you can play a part in combating climate change too?
We also welcomed Reuters Television to the farm this week, a news agency collaborating with Save Soil and Dark Green PR to create positive news stories about regenerative farming. Save Soil is a global environmental movement dedicated to raising awareness of the growing soil crisis, something we aim to counteract in the work that we do. Danielle spoke to them about the importance of soil and, most importantly, earthworms!
Garden Treasures: What’s been happening down in the kitchen garden?
Kitchen garden co-founder Christine Elliott helping to replant the agroforestry strips
As the cold has been setting in, life in the kitchen garden has been steadily slowing down. The team has been busy preparing the garden for winter and bringing things in from the cold. On Thursday, our wonderful group of volunteers helped with 'micro weeding' the carrot seedlings in the polytunnels, a fiddly and painstaking job but one that lends itself to meaningful and steady conversation. Other jobs included heaving over a hundred sandbags to weigh down mypex tarpaulins to prepare ground over winter, harvesting beetroot to protect it from the frost, and replacing damaged trees after the various storms this year.
This week has also seen the team 'putting their babies to bed', or, in other words, covering the vegetables both outside and in with horticultural fleece to protect them from the frost. The crops are tucked in at night then uncovered on warm mornings to expose them to some ventilation.
Friday means harvest day - a day that always seems to come around quickly in the kitchen garden’s weekly calendar. The team was joined by faces old and new as they set to work in the winter sunshine. The veg boxes this week were filled with a mix of leaves (mizuna, rocket, chicory and mustard frills), cavolo nero and squash. We love seeing the incredible dishes you make with your seasonal veggies, so don’t forget to tag @FarmED and @thekitchengardenpeople on Instagram in your creations.
Rise and shine: the team busy harvesting in the polytunnels on Friday morning