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Field Notes - News from the Farm - Christmas Special

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: A redwing contentedly feasting on hawthorn berries. Credit: Nick Patel

As December draws to a close, we have been reflecting on how blessed we have been with the abundance of wildlife this winter. Our fields have become a haven for a variety of farmland birds, which have been enjoying the berries and scrubby grass beneath our orchard. Our sightings so far have included a charm of goldfinches, a crowd of redwings, a wisp of snipes, along with fieldfares, kestrels, kites, and buzzards. We were also lucky enough to spot a stunning kingfisher by our pond last week. 

We’re currently working with West Oxfordshire Farmland Bird Project on a survey of the wild birds we have here at FarmED. Surveys are being completed at different points throughout the year and we should have the results by next summer. Why not see how many different species you can spot yourself on your next visit? 

As a member of the North East Cotswolds Farmer Cluster, we are also a part of their Supplementary Bird Feeding Project and have now begun providing extra food for our birds during the winter season. This initiative aims to support struggling farmland birds, and has already seen the involvement of over 30 local farms. You can read more about the project here.

Café Catch-Up: What’s new in the Café?

The Café has been looking very festive as we enter the final countdown to Christmas. Delicious homemade mince pies have taken pride of place on the countertops, and we’ve been busy preparing for our festive farm walk and feast this coming Friday. Guests will be treated to Fairspear Hill Farm Norfolk Bronze Turkey and Paddock Farm pigs in blankets, or, for vegetarians, stuffed winter squash. This will be served alongside triple cooked roast potatoes and seasonal vegetables, all lovingly grown on-site in the kitchen garden.

Caption: Our twinkling tree greets you as you enter the Café

Local florist Lauren Macadie brought her crafty talents to the farm last week, using foraged foliage including hawthorn berries and willow branches from our fields to create gorgeous wreaths for our cafe. 

This week, the menu has also been updated with some mouthwatering additions. These include a lentil and beetroot veggie burger, pumpkin and leek rarebit on brioche, and a hearty supergreens soup with Indian spices. Our salad bowl this week is made up of a cabbage, onion and carrot slaw, shredded fennel, clementine and lemon salad, alongside a celeriac and white bean remoulade and leaves from the kitchen garden. 

Caption: It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas 

11th December was a special day as we welcomed back D’Accord, our monthly guest band from Oxfordshire. Their merry performance, featuring both classic and modern Christmas songs, drew a crowd and filled the cafe with some festive joy. Kieron even serenaded us with a rendition of ‘Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow’

Events Recap: What’s on at FarmED?

Good Food Oxfordshire 

On Tuesday, we welcomed a group of chefs and bursers from Oxford University colleges, along with local growers and producers, for a farm walk and lunch. This diverse group of stakeholders in the local food network were brought together by coordinators of ‘Good Food Oxford’, a network of organisations working towards a fairer, healthier and more sustainable food system for Oxfordshire.The aim of the day was to inspire buyers and producers to support regenerative farming practices and to develop direct trading relationships to support local food production, short supply chains and investment in the local economy. Good Food Oxford have already done a fantastic job of fostering partnerships between nine Oxford colleges and eight local producers, and it is hoped that this day will help to facilitate onboarding of more producers and colleges into the network, as well as form long-term partnerships. After a slightly soggy farm walk, the group enjoyed a delicious farm to fork lunch of Keralan pumpkin curry with cinnamon rice and beetroot raita. 

Agroforestry workshop

Caption: Our Agroforestry Workshop in full swing 

Earlier this week, we welcomed a variety of experts and speakers on all aspects of agroforestry. Agroforestry is essentially the practice of incorporating trees into the farmed landscape, to benefit the site as a whole. Day one was a training day led by Ben Raskin, Head of Horticulture and Agroforestry at the Soil Association, and Niels Corfield, educator, advisor and tree nurseryman. Together they hosted a combination of inspiring talks, group discussions, a farm walk and farm design activities. As we walked around the farm, we highlighted the various ways we are incorporating trees into our land and the positive impacts we have seen so far. Amelia Hood from the Agroforestry Research Group at the University of Reading led day two of the course, addressing the main barriers to agroforestry. It was a successful two days and everyone left full of wisdom, knowledge and newfound inspiration. It was a privilege to host 50 passionate individuals in our conference barn. 

People, Planet, Pint

Caption: Community spirit in action in Chipping Norton

On 7th December, Danielle represented FarmED at the local ‘People, Planet, Pint’ event in Chipping Norton. The Congress of the People Planet Pints (COPPP) is an alternative to COP28 and part of a nationwide party to empower people to take action in their local community, whilst also inspiring hope by highlighting the great work that is already going on. We are proud to have been a part of such a welcoming space, and fundamentally believe in their ethos that building strong connections is key for a sustainable future. After all, what better way to bring everyone together than over a pint?

Volunteer Compost Loo Workshop

Caption: Our wonderful volunteers getting stuck in on the compost loo workshop

The first of our volunteer compost loo workshops, led by Tim Hope-Cobbold, kicked off this week. Tim is a bit of a local legend in the composting world, having helped to build composting infrastructure at ‘Chippy Flower Farm’ amongst other projects. We welcomed four volunteers on Monday as they set to work

building the wooden framework for our very own compost loo. The volunteers not only learnt woodworking skills, but also discovered the importance of humanure and how a compost toilet can contribute to a more sustainable waste management system. All in all it was a successful day and we look forward to seeing the finished product!

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

The recent rainfall has made for some muddy days in the kitchen garden. Abi and Emma got a free mud spa on Monday as they dug up carrots and the first of the parsnips for the FarmED Café. The root veg has been thriving this year and seems to have survived the frost well. 

Caption: The team kept in high spirits despite the mud

On Thursday, the team spent the morning shovelling rich manure compost produced by Lyneham Heath Farm into large bags, to be used later on the vegetable plots. Compost is magic for the soil, helping to enrich it with nutrients, improve its structure and prevent erosion. The afternoon rain then saw the team work through indoor jobs (of which there are always plenty): reorganising the containers, weighing out over 200 kilos of beetroot and potatoes for Friday’s shares, and seeding radishes into the garlic beds in the polytunnels.

This coming week will also see the first of the brussel sprout and swede harvest, just in time for Christmas! 

And finally…

From everyone from FarmED, we would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year. We look forward to welcoming you back in 2024 for another year of inspiring courses, delicious food, and endless opportunities to learn and grow. Let's continue to work together to create positive change. 


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