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."