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.