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Field Notes - News from the Farm

26th February - 3rd 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?


Join Justine, along with fellow foragers on our Springtime Foraging Farm Walk


This week marked the start of March, a month that brings with it a sense of promise and growth. It’s also traditionally one of the busiest months for both farmers and gardeners, as the longer light-filled days offer the perfect opportunity to sow seeds in the ground. Here at the farm, we’ve been busy planning for Spring (20th March) and we’re looking forward to getting our hands into the soil soon. 


March is a perfect time to have a wander round the farm and see what nature has to offer. As you explore our 100 acres, keep an eye out for edible plants such as wild garlic, dandelions, hawthorn leaves, yarrow, and nettles in the grasses and hedgerows.


While they might not seem like the most obvious choice, nettles are a fantastic plant to forage and add to your cooking, rich in iron and vitamins A and D. When foraging nettles, look for fresh, young growth and pluck shoots and leaves without pulling the plant up by the root. Give them a good wash and remove stalks, before blanching them for 1 minute. You can use them to make your own nutrient-rich tea, pair them with butter and lemon to make a delicious side dish, or use in Spring salads. 


If you want to find out more about foraging, why not sign up to our Springtime Foraging Farm Walk? Guided by expert Justine Gens from Ma Roemca, you’ll get a deep dive into the world of ecology and the environment and learn how to identify, harvest and embrace nourishing wild plants and fungi. 


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


The Cafe received a special delivery this week from the Kitchen Garden - 100 daffodils, grown right here on the farm. These beautiful flowers will bring life to our tables and brighten up the Cafe space.


Phoebe has added some sunshine to the cake counter, too, with her orange and lemon heart-shaped shortbreads and an orange drizzle cake. A pistachio and almond bundt cake has recently graced the Cafe too. We can’t promise it will hang around for long, so pop down and try a piece before it sells out.


The pistachio and almond bundt cake looking delicious on the counter!


Events Recape: What’s on at FarmED?


Royal Holloway MSc Students Farm Walk

The students had a great time and Ian loved hosting a farm walk after a busy few months!


Last week, Ian took a group of 15 MSc students on a farm walk around our 100 acres. They’re studying Food Security, Sustainability and Biodiversity at Royal Holloway University and the course is run in partnership with the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. It focuses on sustainable farming and sustainable livelihoods, making us the perfect place for a field trip. The group thoroughly enjoyed the walk and the afternoon was a great success.


Sibford School Farm Walk

Off to find the pot of gold!


Our wonderful intern, Jade, also led a group of Year 5 and 6s on a walk around the farm last Thursday. The lovely group of 10 and 11 year olds have been focusing on wild birds in their classrooms and wanted to find out what we can do to help them. Jade focused her talk on the habitats we’ve created for farmland birds here at FarmED and why they’re important. Following a walk, the students got to scatter seed for the birds themselves. They were an absolute pleasure to host and the day was filled with lots of enthusiastic questions, intelligent answers and, most importantly, happy faces! A beautiful double rainbow over the whole farm made a special way to end the day.


Lunchtime Talk - Biochar Explained

Biochar - a hidden gem in the world of charcoal!


Our Lunchtime Talk this week was on the fascinating  topic of Biochar - a brand new material in the climate change space. The talk was led by co-founders of Biochar UK, Adam and Chintan, who delved into what Biochar is, how it’s made, and its uses. 


Have you ever thought about what happens to the waste-products of the items we use in our everyday lives? What happens to Christmas trees after the festive season is over? The waste wood from the cricket bat industry, or olive pips from the olive oil industry? All of these waste products can be turned into Biochar and used in ways that benefit the planet and help to combat climate change. Eventually, it’s hoped that Biochar will be used worldwide to heat homes or be used as fuel. 


Essentially, Biochar is a structurally-stable form of charcoal that’s produced without the presence of oxygen. It’s a much more climate and pollution-friendly material than traditional charcoal and can be used in processes such as composting, soil amendment, and construction. It provides amazing benefits for building healthy soils: preventing run-off, increasing water and nutrient retention, improving aeration and amplifying the biological properties of the soil. 


Interested in finding out more? Contact Adam here if you have any questions, and take a look at our What’s On page to see what other talks we have coming up.


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


This week, we welcomed Ethan back to the Kitchen Garden for another season, and there were plenty of hugs all round. He’s been working across different farms in the UK for the Winter, including a dairy farm up in Lincolnshire and a traditional farm down in Devon, where they use old-fashioned methods like Shire horses to farm the land. He learnt a lot and has been imparting his wisdom since he’s been back: teaching us how to make butter and cheese, work with wood, hand-milk cows and cook and live with the seasons. 


In other news, the team has been knee-deep in mud this week as we’ve harvested parsnips (130kg of them!), bedded in the leeks, and even squeezed in an aerobics session as we hauled sandbags and lifted irrigation pipes out of the ground. 


Love was in the air on Friday as Dan, Eddie and Ethan welcomed their other halves to the farm to help out with harvest day. Helen, Husky (who visited all the way from Denmark) and Alice got stuck in (quite literally), harvesting salad for the veg boxes and digging up parsnips. We had our tea break in front of the fire and ended the day with warm toes, hands and hearts. 


Kitchen garden couples retreat!


Honouring March 

As we welcome in a new month, mark and celebrate the unfolding of Spring with the following activities:  

  • Fill your vases with cheerful yellow daffodils.

  • Get into the garden and sow some seeds ready for Spring. 

  • Go on a ‘foraging walk’ round the farm and see what you can find. 

  • Cook a warming meal with delicious seasonal veg (ideally fresh from the garden): leeks, carrots, spring greens, rainbow chard and turnips are just some in season right now. 

  • Go bird watching. 

  • Spot some boxing March Hares.

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