Monday, 30 March 2015

News from the Farm March 2015

It feels like we’ve moved very quickly from winter to spring in just a couple of weeks. I have to say I’m just about ready for it. It’s been a bit of slog this winter with harvesting taking much longer than normal due to the excessive carrot root fly damage to crops in that family.

Now new crops are emerging and we’re into a time of rapid change. We’ve given the first of the purple sprouting broccoli and spring greens. The cauliflower surely must be just around the corner – they were supposed to come anytime from late Feb but these spring ones come when they come. It’s all down to their own biological clock switched on by the seasonal change - much like bulbs and trees coming into leaf – so we’ll just have to be patient.

The landscape on the farm is changing. Most of last years crops have finished and much of the land has been ploughed. This year spread manure before rather than after ploughing so we’re a little bit ahead. Soon the contractors will be back to ‘power harrow’ the ploughed land which will
prepare a nice seed bed then planting can start. First garlic and onions, then potatoes and early crops such as broccoli, beetroot spring, greens, and lettuces.

I like this time of year. It’s a busy dynamic time always trying to keep a little bit ahead and ready for what’s to come. You never know what’s round the corner – especially when it comes to the weather so it’s good to feel on top of things or ideally a little ahead of the game.

There will be plenty to do on the farm from now right though until the Autumn so do come along to some of our work days if you can make it.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

News from the Farm Feb 2015

New volunteer oppotunites.

An important part of what we do is educating and involving people in growing food. We have several opportunity to spread this to a wider audience: home educated kids, young offenders and people with learning difficulties and mental health issues. Some groups would integrate with our weekly Wednesday work morning and some would need their own slot. The only firm plan at moment is to host a monthly session for home educated children but we’ll keep you posted on the developments of any further developments.

Funding Bid.

We are in the early stages of applying for Unltd’s ‘Build It’ fund which provides living expenses
for social entrepreneurs who want to scale up their enterprise. We must demonstrate a positive ‘social impact’ which we do by providing enjoyable, therapeutic and educational volunteering opportunities.
Applying for grants is a competitive business but we do tick the boxes so we’re going to give it a go.

Work Placements.

Marina from the Apricot Centre is applying to the DWP to run a joint scheme in conjunction with Bennison Farm and Essex Wildlife Trust which would provide work placements and training for 10-12 people. We would be paid for our time in addition to the extra help. We hope this succeeds as it is a great opportunity for all involved.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

News from the Farm

A very happy new year to you all. It was great to take a break over Christmas. It’s the one time of year we can give everybody two week’s veg and pretty much shut up shop. We stayed in Wivenhoe for Christmas, saw family and friends and had plenty of time to relax.
Back to business now though. January will entail lots of office work. The necessary evils like accounts, cashflow forecasting and business planning along side the more pleasurable task of planning the next growing season.

This week I am doing a stocktake of our seeds to see what we need to order for this year. We have our tried and tested varieties but each year we’ll make a few changes or try something new. We are going to grow more ‘Butternut’ squash as they performed well and are very popular. We’re choosing a mildew resistant variety of onion this year as our crop suffered from that last year. We’ll grow more ‘Quadro’ tomatoes as they had such good disease resistance and gave a steady crop with out too big a ‘glut’. We may also try a few peppers outdoor and hope for a hot summer!

We’ve already ordered our potatoes. I spent a fair few hours researching to choose varieties with good disease resistance – notably scab and blight – as well as a degree of drought tolerance and of course good eating qualities.

We decided on Maris Bard for waxy first earlies and the popular Charlotte for a great tasting second early salad type. We chose three maincrop varieties all with very good resistance to scab and blight. Orla which will also serve as an early, Cara – especially good in dry conditions and Setanta which I have not grown before but is very highly spoken of for it’s eating qualities. We’re also growing a few of a purple skinned heritage variety called ‘Arran Victory’ reputedly one of the best for roasting.

It’s an enjoyable process planning what, how much and where to plant. It’s a real balancing act trying to grow enough of each crop whilst leaving room for everything else but satisfying when it all comes together. I love choosing varieties and finding what works well for us and it’s always exciting to open the parcel of little seed packets with such big potential in the field.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

News from the farm

The beginning April saw a bit of mad scramble to get everything done. With the ground dried out and prepared for planting suddenly there were potatoes, onions, garlic, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, lettuce etc etc . . . to plant at once. Now most of that is done and whilst we are always busy at this time of year the pressure has eased a little over the last couple of weeks. Of course it won't last long and once we are into May then we'll be sowing and planting pretty constantly though til mid july (and obviously keeping on top of the weeds too!)

This week we're getting ready for the contractors to do the next round of ploughing etc. There is straw to move off the winter carrot patch (to be used for mulching trees), piles of compost and wood chip to shift and the chickens now need to be moved to new ground too. In a couple of weeks the scene on the farm will be very different with all the over wintered crops gone bar the last few cauliflowers and the field slowly starting to fill up with the new seasons planting.

In the veg shares there's plenty of fresh produce coming in now with lovely tender spinach and salads from the polytunnels and plenty more pak choi, cauliflowers and spring greens to come. Just round the corner are sugar snap peas and cucumbers and a little further off are new season carrots and french beans. We're loving the greens of the spring but also very much looking forward to the fruits of the summer.

~ Danny

Monday, 24 March 2014

Waiting to Spring into action

So we are still waiting for the contractors to come and plough and prepare the land for planting. They came last week and mowed down the weeds and old crops but wanted to leave it a few more days to let the land dry out. Apparently land in the locality is still really wet and people have been getting stuck trying to prepare the soil, which is not surprising considering how much rain we had in the winter. It can be very hard to tell how wet underlying ground is so there is a chance that even though it seems pretty dry underfoot the big tractors may hit a wet patch and get stuck. So we'll be keeping our fingers cross that it all goes smoothly and I hope that when I next write we will have ground ready for planting.

The first few plants were delivered last week - lettuce, beetroot and pak choi for the polytunnels. These were planted straight away alongside the carrots and peas I have already sowed. I will also sow rocket, mizuna, radish and spinach - beans too when the soil is warm enough. At this time of year I'm always looking for anything that will grow quickly and give a crop in the 'hungry gap' which falls around late April to early June in between winter and summer crops. If all goes to plan then things shouldn't be too hungry really. Last year bags were lighter but full of leaves such rocket, spinach, lettuce and spring greens which are particularly lush in the spring. To help us through the hungry gap this year, Marina at the Apricot centre in Lawford is kindly letting us use her cold store to keep the last of the winter roots through the spring. We'll also have plenty of cauliflowers, spring onions, green onions and spring greens which have overwintered so there's plenty to look forward too as we await the fruits of summer.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Whoa! The blog is back!

...... Okay it is entirely my fault that this blog has been inactive for nearly a year but this is par for the course when you have a baby!
Here is the small beast that I have been on maternity leave with and also Danny who is looking very clean cut in this picture.

However I am now back if a little sleep deprived and very excited to take up the threads of this blog.
This blog isn't just about the CSA but the whole experience of starting the project from scratch.

While I've been away the scheme has grown hugely, thanks to many people but in particular to Danny, Claire and Rosie who have been covering my maternity leave.
We now have a planted up social area and about to be certified organic. This means that anything that goes into the ground after certification will be classed a organic, anything growing already will still be classed as in conversion to organic.

We have the Spring social coming up on the 12th of April with a work day from 10am - 1pm and social from 1pm - 4pm. If you're local and would like to become a member of the CSA please email me at for directions.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Polytunnel prettyness

Much has been happening on the farm but one area we are particually pleased with is the progress inside our Polytunnels.

 Squirt of film showing the cover going over the second polytunnel frame a few months ago.
 The new poly planted up, the black lines are the irrigation piping.
 Pretty Beetroot growing
 Newly planted Cucumbers
 The tunnel a few weeks later (last week)
 Rocket eye view
Cucumber flower