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.