Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Do we get your vote?

Charlotte and Ben have been nominated by BBC Midlands Today for the
"Midlander of the Year" Award.

You can see the piece shown on BBC Midlands TV by following this link and clicking on Charlotte and Ben on the right hand side of the page.


You can vote for Charlotte and Ben by calling
09015 225101

But, there is only one week to vote and as far as I know you can call up to 100 times from the same telephone number! So, there are no excuses :-)

What has been achieved at Fordhall this year has been nothing short of amazing. The achievements of Ben and Charlotte Hollins (now 22 and 24 years of age respectively) are testament to the support and involvement from all of you. There are 2 of them and almost 8000 of you who own Fordhall. You are the ingredient that make this project work and this award is about your achievements just as much as theirs. The success of this project demonstrates the powerful support that you have for food and farming in this country and above all else, supporting young people in the industry.

After their father, Arthur Hollins died, all Ben and Charlotte wanted to do was to remain at Fordhall and continue to farm it organically. By allowing you to be involved and therefore placing the farm into community ownership, they have done this. Ben and Charlotte are now the proud tenants of Fordhall with security throughout their lifetime, and as an added bonus the farm is there as an educational and social resource for adults and children alike. Although the £800,000 was raised to purchase the land earlier this year, the project does not stop there. Charlotte and team are now working on extending the nature trail and renovating the farm buildings for educational use and of course there are events and volunteer opportunities all the time. All shares now sold will contribute towards these projects, as well as gathering funding for the 12 acre field that they have still not purchased.

For more information on how this project began click below


Brief Update:
As the winter draws in and the temperature drops we are all running round getting ready for Christmas. Orders for Christmas meat are being organised by Ben and his team of helpers, whilst shares, Fordhall calenders and other merchandise are being posted and written by Charlotte, Sophie and the team of volunteers in the office.

It goes without saying that we are looking forward to the peaceful activities of Christmas day and of course to welcoming in 2007 with full security at Fordhall.

Merry Christmas to all our supporters and friends. This really has been a year to remember and we feel extremely lucky to be where we are today.
Roll on 2007......

p.s. Although it is too late to receive shares in time for Christmas, they are still available. They can be purchased online or through the post. Follow the directions from our homepage www.fordhallfarm.com for instructions.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Goats return to Fordhall

Charlotte is happy to announce that two Saanen goats have recently arrived at Fordhall after the elderly lady who owned them went into hospital (see left with Courier Dave welcoming them with some organic apples).

This brings back a lot of memories at Fordhall. Charlotte and Ben were given two young goats when they were only 10 years old by their late father, Arthur Hollins, in a bid to begin teaching them about animal husbandry. The two siblings kept these goats for over ten years at Fordhall. Each year the two goats produced kids, the sale of which provided enough income to cover the feed and vet's bills.

Arthurs plan worked, this taught the two how to manage finances and manage livestock. Their continual attempts of fence repair also taught the two innovation and enterprise! But Ben never really forgot the hassle of chasing goats around the farm yard each time they escaped, and when Charlotte found out that there were two looking for a home, he was not over the moon.

However, Charlotte's enthusiasm seems to have won him over for the moment and the new goats are resident in Fordhalls meadows. They have already proven to be a great attraction for visitors and volunteers (see Adam right with Charlotte), and Charlotte is sure that their varied grazing will do the pastures justice.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Fordhall around the country

The last few weeks have been spent all over the country. Speaking to the public about Fordhall and what the team and all the shareholders and volunteers have achieved.

Charlotte recently spoke at the National FARMA (Farmers Retail and Markets Association) in Torquay, and the Plunkett Foundations Social Enterprise Conference in Weston-Super-Mare where she was joined by Patrick Holden, Director of the Soil Association. Both conferences were fantastic fun and allowed others to hear about the achievements at Fordhall. We hope that what has been learnt here can also help others in similar situations by providing the inspiration and proof that these things can be achieved against all odds.

This thursday evening both Ben and Charlotte spoke at the Shropshire Farmers meeting in Shrewsbury. More local to home, but a more synical audience! Charlotte and Ben were prepared for the difficult questions and they answered then honestly and openly. In fact we think that the big land owners in the area were a little surprised at the determination and enthusiasm that Ben and Charlotte still carry the project forward with. They are not living in a fantasy world believing that everything will now work out fine. They realise that they are only at the beginning of their life at Fordhall and there is much harder work ahead to keep the farm going and the business viable. Much of this depends on your support of local producers and your continued belief in real food - so please do not stop supporting british or indeed your local farmers. You can not under estimate the difference it can make.

Charlotte is now looking forward to speaking at the Triodos WEBA Awards (Womens Ethical Business Awards) in London next week. If you see her around, please do go and say hello. It is always great to meet supporters and shareholders when you are so far away from home.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hedge-Laying at Fordhall

Our last volunteer weekend was focused around hedge-laying. This is a traditional and dying skill that we, at Fordhall, feel is important to learn and sustain. Hedge-laying is a form of hedgerow management that manipulates the branches in a manner that encourages them to thicken and strengthen. This in turn, provides excellent habitats for birds and wildlife.

Once again, the weekend brought together a fantastic mix of people of all ages and skills from around the country. Hedge-laying training requires a great deal of team work which enabled volunteers to get to know each other well.

Everyone really enjoyed their weekend and are keen to return. As a result, we have organised a days experience on January 14th and another full weekend course on 24-25th February. There is a £20 charge per day which, includes all training and food. Camping facilities are an additional £10 per person.

For further information or to book a place please contact Sophie on 01630 638696 or project@fordhallfarm.com.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Odd Sheep Join Fordhall!!

A few weeks ago we were joined by 12 Badger Sheep. A close friend of the family Peter Rudd, donated them to Fordhall as a quirky attraction for visitors But these sheep are not just about good looks, they also taste excellent.

They are currently living on our Motte and Bailey Heritage Site half way around our nature trail (as above) where children have spent time guessing their name from their markings and then running back up the field to tell 'Farmer Ben' what type of breed they are.

Black Face Welsh Mountain Sheep are a quiet and friendly breed that can live in the hardiest of conditions. There is even a a Badger Face Welsh Mountain Sheep Society formed in 1976, where over 200 members from across the UK can exchange ideas and experiences.

We are very excited about these sheep joining us at Fordhall and would like to pass on an enormous thank you to Peter Rudd for donating them. Ben (Farm Manager) says "these are a great breed of sheep, not only are they great to look at, but they are good mothers and very low maintenance".

Please do come and visit our new arrivals when you are next visiting Fordhall. The Farm Shop is open Wed (11-4), Fri (11-6), Sat & Sun (11-4).

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The offices are on the move

Our refurbs (porta cabins) arrived a couple of months ago, but it is only now that we are able to begin moving in. After being escorted here by the police, renovated at the september working weekend and fitted with electrics and networks by our amazing volunteers, we are now ready to make the move out of the Fordhall farmhouse.

David Muray has been working tirelessly to fit the cabins with safe and suitable electrics that will allow our offices to function. On the other side we have Malcolm Donneley who has been fitting in our network. We are only waiting for BT to complete their work and we will be fully functional again!

As this time draws nearer we took the opportunity to move most of the office furniture today. With all the male volunteers away, it was girl power all the way. Sophie, Charlotte, Hayley, Annie and Kat all helped move cabinets, cupboards, desks, tables, files, photocopiers, chairs and the mounds of stationery.

And I have to say that we were probably more efficient than if the men were here to help. Who says women arn't strong!

We even used our Initiative with the heavier objects by using a nearby wheelbarrow to move the photocopier!

Then after a hard days work we all enjoyed a well earned cup of tea and cake (Kat, Sophie and Charlotte above). Moving into these porta cabins signifies a new era for the Fordhall Community Land Initiative. It begins to seperate home life from work life for Charlotte and Ben, and it provides a professional working environment for staff and volunteers.

We hope sometime soon to also install the wind turbine so generously donated by Powertech Ltd. in Dorset (a shareholder). This should power all our lights, making the FCLI office as efficient as possible.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Award Ceremonies all round

Charlotte and Ben recently attended two exciting award ceremonies.

The first was Shropshire Star Woman of the Year Award 2006. Charlotte was nominated as a finalist for her contribution to the farming industry and community development in the area. She was commended for her efforts and the efforts of all those involved with the Initiative. Charlotte was also able to meet Christine Hamilton, the guest speaker at the ceremony. Christine commended Charlotte for her guts and determination. She even took a share application - you never know!

Charlotte said "I feel honoured to be a finalist in these awards. All of the other finalists were ladies who have been doing dacades of charity work, for me to be placed amongst them is very humbling."

The second ceremony, actually held on the same day as the Shropshire Star Awards, was the Princes Trust Enterprise Awards Ceremony, for which Ben and Charlotte were also voted as finalists.

Ben said "The Princes Trust have supported Charlotte and I since the very beginning. They offered us a low interest loan of £2000 when we first took over the tenancy in 2004. With very few livestock on the farm at the time, this loan played a vital role in getting our business off the ground. It paid for a second hand chest freezer from which we sold our frozen sausages, and allowed us to buy some more livestock. Without that initial help our business may not have got off the ground and we may not be here today. We are very honoured to be voted as finalists for this award and are looking forward to building the farm business further."

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Our ventures beyond the farmgate...

We've managed to get out and about a bit over the last couple of months, going to presentations, talks and conferences. It has been a great experience to learn about what has been happening in our local community and throughout the UK. Just to give you a taster of what we've been up to...

19/10 Welsh Organic Farmers' Conference - after a slight detour to Aberystwyth (nothing to do with our mapreading skills), we arrived at the Royal Welsh Showground just in time for Charlotte to talk about the farm's structure and future. It was great to hear people's interest in such a community owned initiative, in particular from farmers who wish to keep their land farmed but know that their families do not wish to continue in the business. Other speakers shared their experiences of working as part of a co-operative, diversification and funding available for their ventures. It was quite startling to see how many people there saw the current focus on buying local produce as a threat to organic produce sales rather than a natural benefit to organic farming in the UK. Do let us know your views!

25/10 "Soil, soul and society", a talk by Satish Kumar - Shrewsbury Friends of the Earth hosted a talk by Satish Kumar, editor of Resurgence magazine. He has led a fascinating life, becoming a monk at the age of 15, persuading landowners in India to give up land for the poor at 18 and moving to England at the age of 25, having walked here! He spoke beautifully about man's relationship with the Earth and the small steps we can make to live more sustainably. Watch out for the next newsletter for more on this!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

French school visits Fordhall

This Tuesday brought a coach load of 50 French school children to the farm. They are all studying agriculture and horticulture for their baccalaureat at school in Burgundy and were keen to see how a British small organic farm works. Ben showed them around the farm, introducing them to local breeds, whilst Charlotte talked to them about the structure and goals of the initiative, with a little help from a few translators!
They shared their views on French farming, in particular their dismay at the move towards larger intensive farms and the need for smaller farms to diversify to survive. However they were enthusiastic about the move towards cooperatives in France and the increased focus on sustainable farming and were impressed by Fordhall's focus on the involvement of the community in creating an enjoyable working and educative environment.
After a picnic in the grounds, they kindly filled out our visitors' book in the farm shop in their best English! Here's a few snippets,
“We discovered a new method of running a farm which pays respect to a job which is less and less well known and less appreciated these days.”
“The farm is very interesting because we don’t see this in France. Keep it up!!”
“The visit to Fordhall Farm was great and the volunteers are very friendly. Good luck for the future.”
Thanks to all of the students who came, it was as much of a learning experience for us as you!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Good bye Rheas

This week we have said good bye to the Rheas, a local young farmer keeps rheas at his small holding down the road so we have rehomed the rheas with him, where they have a large field to roam and more rheas to socialise with.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Our Newest Arrivals.

The newest arrivals to Fordhall came very unexpectedly, a week ago last friday I was attending Shrewsbury Farmers Market when I received a phone call from Terry our neighbour. He asked if we owned an Ostrich, which of course we did not. He then went on to explain there was one running around in the field with my sheep.

Anyway to cut a very long story short. Two Rheas had been put in to a farmers field to graze the grass and they decided they didnt want to stay there. They swam the river tern ran over two roads and ended up at Fordhall.

Sadly one of the Rheas died from the stress of the whole ordeal, but the one remaining Rhea seems very happy at Fordhall next to the Gloucester Old Spot pigs by the farm shop.

The farmer has said that he does not want the Rhea's back and so for now they are living with us. You can see them if you visit the farm during shop and nature trail open days (wed 11am-4pm, Fri 11am-6pm, Sat & Sun 11am-4pm).

By Farmer Ben

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

100 year Tenancy all signed!

When Ben and I first accepted the 18 month tenancy two years ago, we debated whether it was worth it. What if we were to get further into debt? Were we wasting our time and energy and fighting a loosing battle? What can you really achieve in 18 months?

Well, with all your support and encouragement we have achieved what once felt like the impossible. Last week Ben and I signed a 100 year lease for Fordhall Farm - yes all the hard work was definately worth it. Signing this agreement meant a lot to us both. It was the pinnacle of the campaign, the moment when both of us realised what has been achieved.

You have shown us that opportunities are what you make them. You have shown us that you should never not try, as you do not know what can be achieved until you do so. You have taught us that energy, enthusiasm and determination can achieve just as much, if not more, than money.

What has been built at Fordhall has been created from nothing. With very few livestock and no capital, the support and free time offered from people has created something amazing. We are sure that our late father, Arthur Hollins, would be amazed and heartened by the support Fordhall has received; we can not thank you enough.

Yet the hard work starts now. There is renovation of farm buildings, the creation of tearooms and a bunkhouse, as well as the setting up of a nature trail. All that can’t happen without endless planning applications, grant requests and form filling, but we are looking forward to it and we are looking forward to working through it with you.

As far as blueprints go, the set-up at Fordhall could assist other farmers in their fights to save land from the developers. More importantly, it could also result in a change of the law which means land agents will have to offer land for community purchase first before it goes on the open market; similar to the land reform of Scotland.

We may be the first to have gone through this process but we don’t want to be the last. If we lose our farming heritage there won’t be much left to save.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Portacabin Preening

What a great weekend! 40 volunteers from across the country came together over the weekend to help fix and decorate the portacabins. Once again there was a mixture of old and new volutneers and everyone worked hard on their own projects, bringing different skills and experiences to the activities.

It was a weekend of maximum production and the portabins now look fabulous. They are our uniform green and have a lovely kitchen garden outside with drainage systems to collect rainwater and wormery's so we can recyle and reuse any rubbish generated.

We hope to move into the cabins at the end of October once all the electrics have been finshed and the funriture has been moved accross. People keep popping down with added items such as lamps and posters which is fantstic and really helping to peiece the office together.

The weekend combined an introduction talk on permaculutre which engaged everyone in disucssions and shared experiences - we even tried to make our own natural paint! Fordhall Farm is farmed within permacutlures guidelines but we are not very good at passing on a deeper understanding, so our warmest thanks go to Hannah Thorogood for giving up her time to talk to our volunteers and give them that little bit extra to take away.

We hope to introduce different speakers on future weekends if anyone would like to offer their skills? Ideally, it would be about something related to the farm such as wildlife, conservation and so on. The next volunteer weekend is November 4-5 and already people have booked on so act now if you want to join in! Just email project@fordhallfarm.com or phone 01630 638696 and speak to Sophie.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The final stages of buying Fordhall!! by Charlotte

As you will know, we were able to take up the option to buy Fordhall on June 30th this year when, with your inspiring help, we were able to raise the required £800,000.

We signed contracts and paid a deposit, but actual completion is not until this week. The tenancy for Ben and I does not expire until September 29th and so it made sense to exchange deeds on this date. This means that our tenancy will be a simple exchange from the old landlord to the Fordhall Community Land Initiative (all of you!).

The last few weeks have seen a conveyor of emails between the solicitors, the bank and ourselves as we work to ensure everything is in order. The new tanancy agreement, which needs to be in place before we can draw down the mortgage (£100,000) has taken a lot of discussion as it needs to be secure from both sides: the farmer and the Initiative.

At last we think we have a document that will work both now and in 100 years time. This document takes into account the diverse nature of the Fordhall Community Land Initiative and the objectives of the society to create access to affordable land to new and young farmers.

We must pass on huge thanks to Iain Morrison at MFG Solicitors for all his help and Philip Meade from Davis Meade Land Agents - we could not have done it without you. Oops and not forgetting Ian Price at Triodos for his assistance with the mortgage and patience in receiving our paper work!

The last stages are to transfer the remaining funds and to exchange deeds. It is an exciting and surreal time for us all. To even contemplate that Fordhall would be saved by over 7500 people 4 or even 2 years ago was unbelievable, but here we are and you have done it.

The deeds for Fordhall farm now lie with all of you; both Ben and I could not be more grateful. You have provided us with the opportunity to stay in our home and with the resource to provide a living.

We hope that we can use this structure and this support to further these schemes across the country, providing many more opportunities for new and young entrants to farming.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Newsletter Mayham

Finally (!) the next newsletter will be arriving on your doorstep shortly.

We would like to apologise for the delay. There has been an extrodinary number of technical hitches at every corner.

After hours of volunteer time spent stuffing envelopes the vast majority of newsletters have been posted with only a few hundred left to go...

Above - 11.30pm and still slogging away.

A huge thanks needs to go out to all the volunteers who have helped us with this mammonth task and have enabled a quick turn around.

All newsletters will be sent out by the weekend but have a second class stamp so be patient! If you don't receive anything by the end of next week just email us to let us know and we will double-check your contact details.

Right - Ben takes the second load of newsletters to the post offce. We are now on first name terms!

Keep an eye on the website for an update of events in the near future.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Ben pods the peas like a champion

Wow - what tension! Charlotte was adab hand in the kitchen but it was Ben who won the nations hearts! Who would have thought? He'll have to find better excuses to aviod the cooking now.
The whole experience was nerve wrecking but fantastic fun.

Someone asked 'Whats next? Your own chat show?' Any ideas?!

We are all staying up late to stuff the 7500 envelopes with the latest newsletter so not long now folks! Don't forget you can always follow upcoming events and news on this blog or via the website www.fordhallfarm.com.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Ready Steady Cook

If you missed Ben and Charlotte on Inside Out last Monday then dont fret. They will appear on
Ready Steady Cook this Wednesday at 4.25pm on BBC 2.

Charlotte and Ben travelled to London last month to film for the programme, taking with them their own Fordhall Beef fillet, locally caught and smoked trout and other local and organic produce.

Ben said "it was very nerve racking, but great fun. The chefs were all really supportive and the food was great".

We wont tell you who one - you will have to watch and see.

A Birthday Visit

Dear Charlotte,
I had a great day yesterday, it came as a complete surprise when my wife Kim told me about the purchase of the shares in Fordhall Farm. I spent an hour or so Saturday night reading all the literature and getting up tospeed with your campaign and publicity.

It was really great to see the story come to life, we picked a perfect day to visit, the nature trail was bathed in beautiful sunshine and you could not fail to be moved by the view across the valley. This truely is a special place to breed animals and to let them have a peaceful andfulfilled life.

Thanks again for the time you took with us, it was great to meet Sean whoexplained a lot of the future plans, it was good to see it coming together. It is a shame you are so far away as we would like to visit more frequently as we live near Portsmouth, if you are ever passing please come and see us we will watch your progress on the website.

I am looking forward to tasteing the fruits of your labour, we did buy lamb and pork from the shop. Thanks again I will always remember my 40th Birthday as a special day.

RegardsWayne and Kim

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Shareholders claim the cows

Dear Fordhall Farm,

We, (myself, Catherine, my sister Rachel, my brother Tom, cousin Ewien and Aunty Helen) made it to the farm at last this week and had a great time. We are writing to tell you about our day.

As we were driving in the car we were saying that we expected there not to be much to see yet, but when we arrived we were pleasantly suprised to discover that there was a great deal more than we had imagined.

We began our visit with a walk around the nature trail. After feeding the pigs with armfuls of the windfall apples we ventured down to the river to see if we could see any otters. We didn’t unfortunately. Next we climbed a few trees before strolling on down the riverbank, through the woods, over the castle hill, past the cows and pond, and back to the farm.

After our walk we enjoyed a picnic in the company of the pigs. (We fed them with plenty more windfall apples so they didn’t feel left out of the picnic). Incidentally we also named three: Hamburger, Sausage and Bacon.

Finally, still hungry, we spent our money on treats in the farm shop. - Rachel is still talking about her gingerbread cow. We of course, took home some sausages for tea. We had a great day and would like to let you and the other shareholders know what we decided we had each bought with our shares.

I decided I now own a large black and white cow, which came to sniff me when we were on our walk, and of course, I have bought a pig, my friend Sausage. Rachel decided, “I own a brown and white cow (mostly white), which mooed a lot as I passed by. I named her Thistle. I also have a pig that I have named Bacon."Tom feels that his shares have bought him “ A dragon tree (an old tree shaped like a dragon), a clump of blackberries and a cow called Spotty that was black and white.” Ewein says, “I bought a little brown calf”. And Aunty Helen has decided to own a piece of the beautiful Tern riverbank.

Although Uncle Ian couldn’t be with us for this visit, we like to think he has bought a share of the composting toilet (no offence Uncle Ian).

We trust our spending is acceptable to all you shareholders and we are pleased that so many people have contributed to saving Fordhall Farm and hope that you have as much fun on your visits as we will have on ours.

We are looking forward to the future.

Best wishes to Fordhall Farm, from your supporters;
Catherine 13, Rachel 10 and Thomas 8 - Liverpool, Ewein 4 ½, Helen 20+! - Shropshire.

Share your experiences with others...write in and tell us about your trip to Fordhall Farm

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Farmers Guardian rise to the challenge

The article in last weeks Farmers Guardian was fantastically written by Neil Ryder. You can read it by following the link below


The article is written from the farmers perspective. Ben explains how important all of your are to Fordhall and how much he is looking forward to the future.

Portakabins have arrived!

An enormous thank you to everyone for all your offers and advice on the office situation. Last week we took delivery of two portakabins 34x12ft. These were donated from an old building site, it only cost us the £375 delivery charge. A big thank you must go to Mr Kenton Kendall at Interserve site services for all his generousity.

They look a little unsightly at the moment, but we will soon rectify this - look out all those attending our next volunteer weekend on the 23rd September!

We hope to move in by October. One cabin will be offices and the other will be a kitchen for volunteers and a nice dry eating area, which can also double as a classroom when needed.

We still need a couple of computers and some networking and telephone equipment if anyone has anything spare.....

Many thanks to you

Friday, August 25, 2006

Watch out for us in the Farmers Guardian

Yes Fordhall is out and about again. This week you can read about Ben and his management of Fordhall in the Farmers Guardian.

This is a national farming press and so available to you all - if you fancy an insight into the farming industry.

And if you are out and about this weekend, Ben will be at Greenfields Farm Shop Food Fair near Telford over the weekend.

The Fordhall Farm Shop will also be open and our volunteer Dave has agreed to help out on Bank Holiday Monday. This means you can come and enjoy a walk about the farm or a visit to the farm shop at your leisure on Bank Holiday Monday from 11am-4pm.

Our Nature Trail currently takes approximately 40mins to walk. This is our immediate project at Fordhall as we begin to extend it to cover the whole of the farm. As you can see from the picture of our scheduled Motte and Bailey Site, there are some wonderful places to be enjoyed at Fordhall.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

My First Experience of Fordhall, By Andrew Blake, Germany

October 2003

When I first visited Fordhall Farm I was about 9 years old. I was in my room when my mum said, "come one Andrew, we’re going to Fordhall Farm”. I thought, "oh no, what place are we going to now?”. Once we had gotten there, a lady called Connie met us in the front of a really old and big house. She shook all our hands, Mike, my step-dad, my mum, Vanessa, my sister and finally me. We went through a door into the house and I saw that it was full of everything!
We went into another room where an old man was sitting. He said that he was called Arthur. I didn’t say anything, because I was too shy. We went there because Mike wanted to help the family to save the farm, but I didnt really know what it was all about!
After a while Mum said that we were going outside, and outside was also full of stuff, but there were only a few animals. When my mum said it was time to go, I was really upset. I really wanted to stay at Fordhall Farm for longer.

August 2006

Now I’ m back at Fordhall! You may be wondering why I had to wait over 2 years to come back, so I’ll tell you. My mum and dad had divorced, and my mum and Mike had married. We moved to Germany in 2004 and I went to a German school. I’m here on holiday at the moment in England. I was - and I still am - really happy about all this. And Fordhall has also changed so much! Everything’s much tidier, there’s a farm shop, and there are lots of people on a course here and volunteering.
I’ve been introduced to some of them. There’s Andrew, who is a fisherman and hunter, Barney, who cooks for everybody here, Danny, who is always friendly and smiles a lot, and there’s Sophie, who seems to live in the office. Also, my mum, grandma and little sister Katie have come over to see how the farm has changed. I have also heard that Charlotte and Ben have raised the 800,000 quid to buy the farm of the Landlord. Congratulations!!!!
I hope Fordhall will be here for a long time to come and that it wont be so long before I visit again.

Andrew Christopher Blake aged 11

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Office on the move..

As we begin to set down roots at Fordhall there is plenty to keep us occupied. Our first priority is to organise the working space. All of you, the 7557 shareholders, have now outgrown our modest office in the Fordhall farmhouse.

We need more working space and the house has reached its capacity. There will eventually be permanent offices in the new sustainably built buildings on the farm, but until these are up we need a short-term solution.

We are looking for a nice size porta cabin to house us and all our growing volunteers. This needs to be a minimum of 32ft x 10ft and would ideally have a seperate small kitchen area.

Can any of you help?? We are looking for second hand cabins which are free or very cheap.

This is a bit of an urgent request as the number of wires surrounding our office is not good!

If anyone can help please can you email Alec Nunn, he is one of our Trustees and valued volunteers and he has offered to help organise the office mayhem...


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Green Pepper, Red Tomoto 20th of September

How exciting! A group of us went down to London this week to watch Charlotte and Ben battle it out on Ready, Steady, Cook - such tension!

They both had a lovely selection of organic and local food and amazed the crowds at the culinary delights they whizzed up with a little assistance from Lesley and Brian.

Everyone was very welcoming and really interested in the Initaitve. Of course, the winner is top secret and you'll just have to tune in on September 20th to find out who won.

We managed to leave with an apron each for the contestants and a few signed certificates . Watch out how you can get your hands on them.

Ben and Charlotte chilling out in the Green Room - what fame!

The food was so delicious and we all had a really great day.

Ben has to come up with better excuses to avoid being in the kitchen now we've got evidence that he can do it.

Monday, August 07, 2006

New Arrivals at Fordhall

We have had two litters of piglets in the last 2 weeks. Unfortunately a couple didn't survive but that's life. The ones that did survive are happily running around and keep finding thier way through the hedge to discover the big wide world. You can come and see all the animals at the farm during the Farm Shop opening hours - Wed, Fri, Sat and Sun 11-4.

This little beauty arrived on Saturday night. A late comer but Baby Barry was more than welcome. Hes got his dads looks...!

Below is the mother of the little piglets in the photo. She particuarly likes a good scratch against anything that stands still long enough. She deserved a 'well done' as this was her first litter and she coped really well.

If you missed out on the fantastic article in the Observer yesterday take a couple of minutes to glance at it now. It really sets the project within the wider context and reinforces how we have managed to soar over the first hurdle purely because of the enormous amount of help from everyday people we received.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Observer Magazine

Make sure you grab yourself a copy of this sundays Observer (6th August). If you take a careful look in their Food Monthly Magazine you may find the story of Fordhall, followed by some fantastic photos.

We hope this will give the project and shares another boost in order to help clear the £200,000 Bank Loan and of course to help contribute to sustainably built bunk house after then.

Make sure you get yourself a copy and that you tell all your friends. Fordhall has a national appeal and significance and this is only just the beginning....

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The social side of the volunteer weekends

A volunteer has just forwarded on these photos from our most recent volunteer working weekend which you may be interested in. Please note the complete mixture of ages - everyone is welcome and there are loads of different activities that will suit you all. Come and meet lots of lovely people and have fun, whilst learning new skills and learn a little more about farming.
Saturdays team from the weekend - all chirpy and ready for action after a well deserved lunch break.
The social side of the weekends - its amazing what inspirational ideas can be bashed out around the campfire. Although, in this situation the rain forced even the most hardcore of us under cover. Couldn't risk having excuses to get out of work on Sunday now could we!
The next volunteer working weekend is September 16-17. If you are interestesd in attending please contact Sophie on 01630 638696 or email project@fordhallfarm.com


The Travelling Morrice have just left Fordhall after coming to dance for us to celebrate the success of our campaign. A number of them are shareholders and the rest are new supporters.

Well the guys were fantastic. We have never had morris dancers at Fordhall before and it was great fun. A big thanks to John and the gang for choosing Fordhall on your travels.

We wish you well on the rest of your dancing journey and hope you will come and dance for us again sometime.

Morris Dancers at Fordhall

If you are in the area this afternoon how about dropping down to Fordhall at 4pm to see the travelling Morris Dancers.

They will be performing in the yard outside our farm shop for whoever wishes to watch. So long as it doesnt rain, this should be great fun.

Thats the Travelling Morris Dancers, 4pm, Fordhall Farm.

And dont forget to get in touch if you know of any spare or good second hand display boards....

Monday, July 31, 2006

Another fine volunteer weekend

Another fantastic volunteer weekend is over and the farm continues to improve as everyone puts something back into it. As this was the first volunteer working weekend after reaching our initial target of securing the farm, there was a renewed sense of optimism and vision - no longer are we doing jobs just because they are necessary, but instead we are looking at the extensive future of the Initiative.

Once again, there was a great mix of volunteers and shareholders - new and old. People travelled from all over the country and stayed in local B+B's or camped in the garden. Everyone got on amazingly well and brought different qualities and skills to the weekend to share and exchange.

The different activities included painting gates and walls, building fences for the new pig pen, making gates, strimming, clearing concrete areas, sanding and varnishing benches, clearing scrap metal, tidying up the garden and making mini gardens in the car park. All these jobs went really well but a special YEAH goes out to those who slogged away at cleaning bricks. This has been an ongoing job since last October when one of the buildings was taken down by volunteers. Since then brick cleaning has been a job for most working weekends - we want to reuse the traditional bricks for future plans. A very worthwhile project!

The weather behaved perfectly. It was sunny with a breeze all weekend. Then at lunchtime on both days, it absolutely poured with rain forcing everyone to crowd under the jazzy gazebos in the garden. But all was not lost, with immaculate planning, the rain ceased the moment lunch ended, enabling volunteers to merrily continue with their jobs...lucky them!

Everyone left looking tired but contented and were keen to return. By the end of the weekend volunteers are counted as friends and they have all found their niche at Fordhall so it is always sad to see everyone leave.

The next volunteer weekend is September 16 - 17 although many have expressed interest in returning for the odd day before then...watch this space.

ps. A quick HELLO! to Dave - a valuable volunteer and database king who has returned to America for couple of weeks to see family. Your being missed!

Display desperation...

Hi All,

Here we are again asking for your valuable help. We are coming and meeting you whenever we get the opportunity, and we want to create the right impression. We are looking for some second hand display boards but can't find anywhere that sells them - can you help?

Our next show is the Shrewsbury Flower Show on the 11th and 12th August, and then Ludlow Food Festival on the 8th-10th September, Attingham Food Festival in Shrewsbury on the 16th September and the list goes on.

In the past we have borrowed boards from friends but this is not always possible. If you have some spare boards you are able to donate, or you know where there are some cheap second hand boards that we can buy, please can you post a comment on this blog and we will reply to you.

What we need: Boards that are light, fold easy, look tidy and are stable - please let us know

Thank you in advance for your support

Monday, July 24, 2006

Burning the Midnight Oil

Whilst we are all still working hard to catchup with the backlog the sun is beating down outside and the butterfiles are out in force. It is absolutly stunning here although the grass is crying out for some rain (but not before Ben finishes bailing of course...)

Our volunteers are so dedicated that not even the power cut we had on Saturday discouraged them. Working long hours into the middle of the night we were all eqipped with candles and the occassional flourescent jacket between us, stuffing envelopes and signing certificates. Thanks to Dave, Sean, Victoria and Holly for your staying power. There was a really good atmosphere in the office as everyone knew how important it was to try and catch up with ourselves and they were all willing to put in the extra mile, again.

Meanwhile, shareholders are taking the opportunity to come and visit the farm during the shop opening hours (Wed,Fri,Sat,Sun 11-4) and are walking around the nature trail, only to return with a huge grin on their faces after seeing how attractive and important the farm is. Fordhall Farm now belongs to you and we love telling you about it and pointing you in the right direction so you can experience it for yourselves.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Tom Oliver and CPRE Support Fordhall

At last we can show you the fun that was had at Saturdays dinner and ceilidh dance. Tom Oliver, Head of Rural Policy from the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), was our guest speaker (see below). We were honoured that he was able to attend our event and sincerely grateful for all his support throughout the campaign and indeed for his support on the evening. We look forward to more connections between Fordhall and CPRE.

An exerpt from his speech

"It’s not often that there’s a chance to celebrate something that is almost too good to be true. But in the case of the saving of Fordhall Farm, it is possible to do this. Because today, thanks to the commitment of Charlotte and Ben Hollins, Sophie Hopkins and their army of supporters, the farm which has been managed by their family for generations is now permanently secure. It has a future at a time when the prospects for smaller traditional farms are threatened as never before. Something has happened that is almost too good to be true; but happened it has...

The Fordhall team under the leadership of Charlotte, Ben and Sophie have established a new quality in the world of agricultural enterprise: something that I call heroic realism. Heroic because the scale of the challenge was daunting, the obstacles considerable. But also realistic because these three people have their feet firmly planted on the ground, know how to do their job and have inspired others by just getting on with it, even in the depths of a cold February, when I first visited Fordhall...

...What’s even more inspiring is that there are signs that the example of Fordhall Farm is being used to encourage others right across the country to do the same and set up Community Land Trusts. There is a serious opportunity to give this new idea a momentum. This will allow farms, their landscapes, wildlife and the local people who live near them to swim against the tide of standardisation and decline which will otherwise engulf many of them. I pledge my support to help this process wherever possible working within CPRE. Charlotte, Ben and Sophie and their advisers have a key part to play in this new advance of the cause of sustainable farming and the protection of the countryside..."

The day after this prestigious event were guided walks around the farm. We guided 100 people throughout the day around Fordhall, with afternoon tea in the garden to finish. It was a perfect day and the perfect end to our weekend celebration. Thank you to all those who attended.