29th January - 4th February
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?
Caption: Sunset over a February sky.
The beginning of February marks the Gaelic festival Imbolc, a celebration of the first signs of Spring. It welcomes the return of life to the land and the spirit and dates the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. The word Imbolc is believed to come from the old Irish ‘Imbolg’ meaning ‘in the belly': a reference to the pregnancy of ewes at this time and the stirrings of new life.
February is full of promise and as you walk around the farm, you might slow down and take time to notice life happening in the details: birds flying overhead, the low sun creeping through the hedgerows, and the scatterings of snowdrops (once known as February's fair maids) in the grass verges. Other plants are starting to come into bloom too, stretching into the pale winter sun.
Events Recap: What’s on at FarmED?
Last Thursday, we hosted a group of 11 inspiring individuals from the Yeo Valley team. They hired our library space for the day, where they held future impact sessions. In the late morning, Ian gave the group an introduction to farming over the last few decades, before they were taken on a farm walk by our Agricultural Lead, Kate. The group were really interested in finding out more about the different farming systems we’re pioneering at FarmED and are hoping to promote regenerative practices themselves. It was the perfect weather for a farm walk, with the sun beating down across the rolling hills.
Caption: Our Agricultural Lead, Kate Henderson showing the Yeo Valley team the beautiful Evenlode Valley
How to Set Up a CSA Course
Our wonderful intern, Abi Gwynn, ran a ‘How to Set Up a CSA’ course last Thursday and Friday, alongside head-growers Dan and Emma from The Kitchen Garden. It’s a project Abi has been working on throughout her time here, and all her hard work definitely paid off. The course sold out and attendees commented on the ‘inspiring, friendly and inviting’ nature of the two days. It was brilliant to welcome such a diverse group of people, including people shifting away from corporate careers, to those with land looking for their next business venture.
The first day kicked off with a presentation from Abi on the history of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), setting the scene for the day ahead. Dan and Emma went on to talk about business planning, walking the group through everything you need to consider when setting up your own CSA. After a hearty lunch in the cafe, the group were then given a tour of our very own kitchen garden, seeing the theory discussed in practice. The day then finished with a panel discussion , where speakers Suzy Russell (CSA Network), Tim Mitchell (Asthall Manor Kitchen Garden) and Harrison Fannon (Worthy Earth) shared wisdom on topics such as the biggest challenges they had overcome in their journeys so far, and what they wished they knew when starting out.
On Friday morning, the group took a field trip to the Three Turnips CSA at Lower Hampen Farm. Owners Lydia and Clive Handy gave the family farm a new lease of life in 2021 when they planted their own orchard and sainfoin fields, set up a market garden and erected a small farm shop where they sell farm-reared meat, home-grown fruit and veg, homemade jams and preserves, honey and handmade wool products using the CSA business model. Everyone left feeling inspired and full of hope for their own journeys. Again, the group were then treated to a delicious lunch in the cafe, before Dan and Emma led an informative session on the technical aspects of growing and how to build community around you. Participants left with new connections, feeling positive and inspired for their own CSA venture, and we are looking forward to running a similar course next year.
Caption: Abi leading the first session on our CSA course.
Warwick University MSc Students
On Monday, we welcomed a group of Masters students studying Sustainable Crop Production and Food Security at Warwick University. There were a total of 60 students, most of whom had never been on a farm or seen a cow before, so it was great to see them all get stuck in. Rosemary Collins, the course leader, brought the group to FarmED in the hope her students would benefit from seeing first hand the topics they’re studying and it’s fair to say they did.
Caption: Warwick students wrapped up ready to start their farm walk.
Cafe Catch-Up: What's new in the cafe?
Are you a regular at the cafe and always wanted to know a bit more about FarmED (outside of delicious coffee and cake)? On 15th February, we’re launching our weekly Lunchtime Talks: a brilliant way to get a taste of what FarmED has to offer. You’ll hear from a variety of experts each week on the topics of nature, climate change, food and farming. There'll be plenty of stimulating conversation and time to ask questions, followed by a seasonal, nutritious lunch. On 21st February, founder Ian Wilkinson will be giving a talk on the journey of Honeydale Farm, taking you through how FarmED went from empty fields and just two members of staff to the thriving centre it is today.
Caption: Our Lunchtime Talk schedule!
Every Friday, as well as our usual menu, we offer a range of delicious pizzas, cooked fresh in our wood fired pizza oven. There’s a choice of both a romana and a classic base, with toppings varying week to week depending on what’s in season. All our veggies come from our on-site kitchen garden, meaning you’re getting a true farm-to-fork experience. The pizzas are served with a bowl of fresh kitchen garden leaves, too.
Caption: Say cheese!
This week, the 20-strong group on our two-day ‘How to Set Up a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)’ course were served a delicious savoury crumble made with veggies from the kitchen garden, as well as a bean and FarmED vegetable bolognese the next day. Everyone left with full and satisfied bellies, ready to take on their busy afternoons.
Garden Treasures: What’s been happening down in the Kitchen Garden?
While Dan and Emma were busy running the CSA course, our regular volunteers helped everything run smoothly in the background, digging carrots out of the ground in time for the Friday veg boxes. They braved the cold and powered through with a little help from warm conversation and hot drinks from the FarmED cafe.
Caption: How many leeks is too many leeks?
We also welcomed back the lovely Eddie this week, who had spent the depths of the winter season in the Austrian mountains, learning how to become a ski instructor. He’s now back working in the kitchen garden, helping out three days a week. As we approach Spring, we will start to get busier planting and harvesting so it’s great to have him as part of the team once again.