Friday, December 21, 2007

Sophie's Last Day At Fordhall Farm

Well, the day has finally come. It is my last day in the office and in between eating chocolate cake, I am trying to get everything in a resonable order so the new person in January doesn't have to adapt to my abstract filing systems. I have been involved in the Fordhall Community Land Initiative since Feb 2005 and still believe it is a fantastic and inspiring project. But it is time for pastures new! I am off to assist in a primary school and orphanage in Kenya Jan - April then I will return looking for a new project to get to grips with.

I have been very privilaged to work and meet with so many fantastic people. I have a particular fondness for all the volunteers. They vary in ages, skills and availablity but they are all great - from those that come every week or every working weekend, to those that come once or twice throughout a year. Everyone is remembered and equally important.

Likewise, all the people who we meet when out and about or who drop by with tools and other things to donate are incredibly important to the sustainability of the project. Everyones enthusiasm, no matter how moderate or extreme, builds together to ensure the momentum of the project does not wane. It is this, and the chance to learn so much more and meet so many wonderful people, that makes everyday so rewarding and interesting.

Thank you and I'm sure I'll be back to join in as a genuine volunteer at some point in the future!

MERRY CHRISTMAS and an exciting HAPPY 2008. May it be filled with laughter.

Sophie x

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Awards and dances - it's all go at Fordhall Farm!

CONGRATULATIONS to Fordhall Community Land Initiative for winning the award for 'The Most Care and Consideration Towards Volunteers' in Shropshire. This exciting award reflects not only the hard work that goes into making volunteers welcome and feel appreciated, but also the fact that so many volunteers reguarly return and all seem to enjoy themselves! It was a real compliment to the Initiative.

Also - Congratulations to Sophie for being in the final for the Best Volunteer Manager Award. Here she is, pictured with Mark from Volunteering England.

To celebrate the award and to introduce the Christmas spirit Fordhall Farm held an exciting, blood pumping ceilidh at the local secondary school. In total 65 enthusiastic people joined together to try and follow the steps whilst having lots of fun and filling the room with laughter. There was a lovely buffet and a delicious Fordhall pork bap.

A huge thanks MUST go to all the volunteers who helped pull the event together on the day - decorating the hall and ensuring everything ran smootly on the night. All your assistance is greatly appreciated.

Onwards to another exciting year ahead with new challenges and ambitions. We hope you enjoy the journey!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Aftermath of the BBC Good Food Show

It is an unexpected joy to be back in the office today. I (Charlotte) attended every day of the BBC Good Food Show at the NEC in Birmingham representing Fordhall Farm and the Fordhall Community Land Initiative. Our first time at the exhibition has been a tiring, yet enjoyable 5 days.

There were various other helpers along the way including Yvonne, Sophie, Julia, Bryan and Elaine. All contributed to a very successful exhibition. We sold books, shares and of course meat - whilst Ben was at the farm looking after the animals and working in the butchery to keep us well stocked!

It was an interesting show, with some days being extremely slow and others being busier. Some of the highlights were meeting shareholders for the first time and talking to customers direct through the 'Meet the producer' workshops we were involved with.

These were Food Tasting workshops with Jimmy Docherty from Jimmy's Farm in Essex (from the TV series 'Jimmy's Farm') and Jonathan from Welsh Farm Organics. Both are great people and great fun to work with. In a similar position to ourselves, they rely wholly on customers buying local food.

It was especially encouraging to see the number of people at the weekend workshops, who were all keen to meet the local producers and who all had an obvious affection for good local food. We need them to continue disseminating the important benefits of buying locally. Not only for the environment, but also for the small farmers future, and of course your health through the quality produce you buy and eat in return.

We spoke about many issues including health, organics, supermarkets, and good sausages!

I am sure we will form stronger links with both Jimmy and Jonathan in the future.

P.S. Dont forget our Ceilidh (BARN DANCE) in Market Drayton this Friday at 7.30pm. There will be plenty of food and drink, so great fun whether you spend the night dancing or chatting. See you there

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

We're at the BBC Good Food Show

Fordhall Farm is at the BBC Good Food Show today and until Sunday. Charlotte and Yvonne will be working hard everyday to speak to as many people as possible. Buy shares, buy 'The Fight for Fordhall Farm' book, buy Bens meats, or just come and say hello. Each day Charlotte will be doing a talk with Jimmy Docherty from Jimmy's Farm in the afternoon producer workshops.


Find us at the Ludlow section of Hall 20

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Christmas Spirit at Fordhall Farm

Last Friday Fordhall took part in the Market Drayton Festival of Lights. This successful event had 53 stalls and 200 school children in a candlelit procession. Ben sold out of his sausages quickly due to high demand and Charlotte and Sophie made Tree King/Queen crowns with children, much to the amusment of passer-bys, laughing at the pair dancing around with a paper crown and bits of driend leaves and tinsel stuck to them.
Also this weekend, 8 volunteers got to grips with the hedges at Melverley Meadows and learnt how to hedgelay. They all throughly enjoyed themselves and left feeling enthused to learn and practice more.

Coming up, just around the corner, is the Christmas Ceilidh which is going to be a hoot! The event is being held at The Grove School in Market Drayton on Decemeber 7th at 7.30pm. Tickets are £10 for shareholders and £12 for non shareholders and include a delicious Fordhall pork bap. The whole evening will be lots of fun, dancing to barn-dance style music with a live band and a Caller instructing us what to do. It is even worth coming along if you would prefer not to dance so you can giggle at us making mistakes...

In the more immediate future, we will be at the BBC Good Food Show this Wednesday to Sunday. Not only do we have a stand selling meat, books and shares for Christmas, but Charlotte is also giving a talk with Jimmy Docherty (of Jimmys Farm fame) everyday for 1 hour. Lucky her!

Don't forget to keep checking the website for future events.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Muddy Matches visit Fordhall

Today we had a visit from two interesting siters, Lucy and Emma. They are travelling the country in a country cottage (campavan)- have you ever heard of a cottage travelling the British Countryside before? I know I haven't - promoting their new venture Muddy Matches, and they decided that they wanted to vist Fordhall Farm.

Muddy Matches is a website set up to help rural people meet others. Living in the countryside can be a very isolating life - unless you have 8000 landlords and over 200 volunteers! - and this website helps people get together. Whether it be for dating or for just making friends.

It is a fantastic idea and I know that the girls will make a great success of it. They seem to have been on quite an adventure so far and we hope they will write something for our newsletter about the interesting rural people they have met on their way and the problems they face to stay on their farms and in their businesses.

There may also be a Fordhall Singles Volunteer Weekend organised next summer as a result - watch out all those singletons...

They left Fordhall to go to a Speed Dating evening at Harper Adams University College - good luck girls! ;-)

Their website is definately worth a look - perhaps even pass it on to your friends.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Field - December Issue OUT NOW

Check out this months issue of 'The Field' magazine. The second page is a full page interview with Charlotte and Ben about their award - 'Young Rural Entrepreneur of the Year' sponsored by The Field and Lycetts Insurance Brokers.

Giving it some Welly!

Over the last few weeks Ben and I (Charlotte) have been trialling wellingtons for a review in BBC Countryfile Magazine. We each had 7 pairs ranging from the traditional green, to whacky pink, and some even had dogs on! Although I have to say that my wellies were much more whacky than Bens! I never knew wellingtons could be so much fun, or could be so different. Looking at the soles's, how comfy they are, what the lining was, and even how much they weighed.

For an indepth appraisal of all the wellingtons we trialled from Hunters, to Joules, to Aigle, check out BBC Countryfile Magazine over the christmas period.

Our trial period happened to fall over a volunteer weekend, and so a number of volunteers helped me out, whilst they were working in the ditch - and apparently, they dont float!!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Send your bricks to help build a community

Fordhall Community Land Initiative was founded by 8500 members all buying shares for the community farm buy out. This made history; Can we help create another such miracle?

Well, Martin Large a FCLI member who with Greg Pilley helped get FCLI off the ground with facilitation, financial and legal assistance as part of the Community Farm Land Trust Project is now inviting you to send a brick to the Housing Minister, Yvette Cooper MP in London. The groundbreaking scheme in Stroud, Gloucestershire for securing 11.5 derelict acres of Chases Green Hospital for Gloucestershire Land for People, a community land trust like Fordhall FCLI, is hanging in the balance because the government landowner, English Partnerships have changed their mind

Its not just farms that are unaffordable and inaccessible to young farmers. There is a big shortage of affordable homes for rent or first time purchasers in villages and market towns throughout Britain. Young families on average incomes just cannot afford to live in rural areas any more, as second homes and inflated house prices clear them from their communities. So what’s the answer?

Well, FCLI showed the way with setting up a community land trust, and now there are a number of pioneering CLT’s for affordable homes and community facilities getting going. In theory, Hazel Blears MP, the Communities Minister, welcomes community engagement through CLT development, saying that when government and councils ignore such participation it is a ‘sin’. Yvette Cooper MP welcomes this in housing. But their words don’t match their deeds on the ground, and so we need your help by sending her a brick together with a supporting letter.

This is a defining moment in creating sustainable, inclusive rural communities. So I invite your help to create a value shift for building permanently affordable homes for rural communities through CLT’s like GLP-and then perhaps in your area if needed!

So, Gloucestershire Land for People will be meeting later in November with Yvette Cooper MP, the Housing Minister to invite her to support our original Cashes Green Stroud proposals. But we need your timely support-and a brick. As Ben Franklin used to say, we either hang separately or together!

Please write to Yvette Cooper MP a letter to support our GLP’s Plans for Cashes Green, and that the Government gives the land to GLP for this scheme-as an important National Exemplar Pilot that will pave the way for other such schemes nationally. Say that the brick is your contribution!

Write a message on the brick like, 'For Cashes Green and Gloucestershire Land for People'; get a few other people to sign the brick and date the brick. Be sure to mark on the outside of the parcel containing the brick 'This package contains a brick for Gloucestershire Land for People and Cashes Green and a letter from..." (Security!)

Yvette Cooper MP's address: Department of Housing, DCLG, Eland House, Bressenden Place, London, SW1E 5DU. Or get your MP to deliver it personally-so they can tell the Minister how much affordable homes are needed in your area.

When we meet the Minister, we will collect all your bricks for the first bricks to be laid at Cashes Green. If you put your email on the brick we can send you details of the brick laying celebration. This will be a very tangible way to show your support-and build the CLT movement that Fordhall pioneered.

Martin Large Gloucestershire Land for People
08453 457 599

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Preparation for Volunteer Weekend

Preparing the weekend ahead...This working weekend was particularly special as it was Sophies last volunteer weekend and a chance to see many returing friends.

Don't forget to put the ceilidh in yor diary - Friday December 7th, 7.30pm at The Grove School in Market Drayton. Tickets are £10 and include a Fordhall pork bap!

Now read on for an account of the weekend...
(click on November 2007 at the end of the archive list on the left to see all the pictures from the weekend)

Just Look at the Enthusiasm!

Look at all the happy smiley faces of volunteers! The weekend was well attended and lots of jobs were ticked off making a huge difference to the appearance of Fordhall Farm and really getting to grips with some outstanding jobs. Everyone worked consistently well and the new and returning volunteers founded friendships. Well done to all those who are in the photo and all those who turned up late/only for Sunday and managed to escape the ritual!

Building Work Continues

Work continued with the new farm building. Concrete was laid down and a team of guys worked very well together to move the project on at speed. All fuelled on by cake and delicious food created by the wonderful and essential kitchen staff!

Daffodil Invasion

One of the main tasks for Saturday was planting daffodil bulbs down the driveway. A productive team of keen volunteers took the task in hand and finished the job beautifully whilst others concentrated on removing nettles from hedgerows.

Volunteers Create Guy!

A Guy made from old clothes and leaves gathered by 2 chatty volunteers who created him with love and affection...I am sure he enjoyed his sort life.

Sparkler Sensations

Lots of people joined us for an exciting bring and share bonfire on Saturday evening. There were some fabulous delicious treats and generous donations of fireworks. It was a lovely relaxed evening.

Girl Power Clears Ditch

The girls dig out the ditch whilst the guys find big things to dig out to be manly! The ditch was first dug out by Arthur in 1942 and took him 18 months to clear. That is determination! Fortunately, things were a little easier this time round with more people power.

To Me, To You

Excellent team effort!

In total, over 20 gas bottles were discovered and close to 30 tyres, not to mention other items. And we only completed 1/2 the ditch! It was a really achievement by everyone involved.

Digging for Legs

And of course, some were more unlucky than others (sorry Tess!)

But all in all, it was a really fantastic weekend. Everyone pulled together to help with the biggest jobs and small teams of volunteers were scattered around the farm, each making a difference and improving areas of the farm. A 100% satisfactory weekend. Thank you to everyone involved x

Monday, October 29, 2007

Volunteer Kitchen gets new addition

A few weeks ago Charlotte travelled to London to collect a gas cooker donated by a very generous supporter.

Pam from Wessex nightclub in Clapham, London is knocking down her nightclub and closing her catering business to begin new adventures and had a spare cooker that we could take advantage of.

But Pam, has been a supporter of Fordhall for a long time. In the 1960's Pam used to deliver Arthur Hollins' Fordhall yoghurts and cheeses to London department stores. Collections from the cold store at Stamford Street were taken to Basingstoke and Guildford among many other places, to satisfy customer demands. It was her first job and she was paid £3 per hour including a work van and all her petrol - not bad for those days!

Inspired through the food industry she went on to have her own catering business, a delicatessen, and later the nightclub. Who knows where she will go next...

Anyway, thank you for the cooker Pam. We hope to get it working in our volunteers kitchen as soon as we can get it converted to LPG.

Follow this link to read more about Fordhall's history.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Relishing Fordhall Farm

What a lovely day yesterday - the Midlands group of Relish from Heart of England Fine Food visited Fordhall Farm for a guided walk and buffet, tasting lots of local delights including our very own beef and pork of course! The group were great fun and the sun shone across the fields creating a perfect Autumn day. There was lots of great discussions about delicious food and where it comes from, including exhanging some handy shopping places!

Charlotte went onto give a talk to 3 WI groups in Staffordshire in the evening and thoroughly enjoyed taking part in their meeting and the entertainment organised.

Now the Nature Trail has re-opened there is just enough time to explore Fordhall Farm as the leaves turn a lovely deep red before scattering to the floor and giving the pigs tempatation to rummage through them to find acrons!

Watch this space for forthcoming events:
- Bonfire Night celebrations at Fordhall...don't forget about our working weekend on 3-4th November. Places are filling up but its going to be absolutly great so get in there quickly. Lots of team jobs and smaller projects planned. Something for everyone!

- Ceilidh before Christmas! As soon as we have confirmed the date we will let you know.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Young Rural Entrepreneur of the Year Award

Last night Ben and I (Charlotte) travelled to London for the awards ceremony of Young Rural Entrepreneur of the year award. The nominations had been reduced to 5 finalists and we could not believe that we were within them. The others were amazing and had achieved so much in such a short time, yet Ben is still only earning £90 a week!

So you can imagine that when our names were read out as the winners, we were completely stunned. We did not know what to say and the speech for once was surprisingly short....

The evening was held at Purdeys (the famous gun makers) just off Park Lane in London and the awards were run and sponsored by 'The Field' magazine and 'Lycetts Insurance'. Both Ben and I are extremely grateful for all at the Field and Lycetts for the award. Creating the Fordhall Comunity Land Initiative was a journey that so many people were involved with. Offering their time and skills has allowed Ben and I to learn so much over the last four years, it has allowed us to save Fordhall and place it into community ownership, it has given us a 100 year lease on the land, and it has allowed us to make some great friends and have some great fun along the way.

With so many other young people trying to enter the industry but being blocked by high land values, we hope the Fordhall Community Land Initiative will be something that others can follow. It has certainly shown Ben and I that farms hold a much higher value to the community than simply food producers.

Yet, this is still the very beginning for us and Fordhall Farm. There is still so much to do and so many new projects to get underway, such as the online shop, the nature trail improvements, and renovations to the farm buildings. Ben and I even had to pack meat for the farm shop when we got home last night at 1.30am! There is no rest for the wicked..

The prize money will go towards renovations in the farmhouse and a new bull for Ben's growing herd of Aberdeen Angus'. We also hope to organise a thank you party for all our volunteers and supporters. Without you we could not have got where we are today.

Many thanks to Sophie, volunteers, shareholders and everyone at Lycetts and The Field.

Charlotte and Ben x

see the BBC website for the official release:

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Proactive Animal Management!

The arrival of new piglets never loses its appeal and excitment quickly spreads around the farm and onto visitors who rush to see the little bundles of pink squeaky joy! The latest 'newbies' are 11 very healthy and strong piglets who were born a week ago (see picture) and are now running around in their penned outdoor area inbetween still cuddling up under the heat lamp. Aren't they cute and so small?!

In a different animal management situation, Ben changes the colour of the 'strap' used on the rams. This rather undignified process helps to indicate when a ewe has been 'served' and therefore at what stage she is likely to produce a lamb. By changing the colours , Ben will be able to judge which groups to monitor at what time regarding lambing. Although it may sound like the notion of romance has been removed from the mating process, then rest assured that the rams seem to like to challange and between them both, are quick to notch up as many coloured stripes as possible!

It gives the notion of Fordhall as a Love Farm an entirely different meaning!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Quiz Night Raises Funds For Fordhall

What a brilliant night! A huge thank you must go to Olwyn who has been organising this fantastic night for almost a year. Te community centre was packed to the brim and there was a distinctive competitiveness in the air! Fordhall Farm was represented by 14 volunteers (some of the 'stragglers' are pictured on the left) who did their best to prove their authority on worldly matters, even if it wasn’t good enough to win – after all, participation is what counts(!). Ben’s pork baps and lots of lovely desserts for all to enjoy complimented the evening. It was clear just how much work had gone into preparing for the evening – the excellent range of questions, the beautiful table arrangements and the mass of helpers on the evening to ensure everything went smoothly. It was great to be able to attend an event and not worry about everything!

Half of the money raised on the evening was donated to Practical Action ( and the other half is to be donated to Fordhall Community Land Initiative to help fund a future project:

“The money raised on behalf of FCLI from the quiz evening will go towards a bridge that will allow children from Buntingsdale school to cross the river to visit Fordhall on a regular basis as part of their lessons. We estimate that this will cost approximately £350 for materials as we may have to concrete posts in and design a structure. We are hoping the labour will be provided for free either from parents at Tern Hill or our own volunteers. The idea is establish a long-running project that will create an opportunity for young people and their parents to strengthen their relationships. By building this bridge, literally, we will be opening up so much potential for workshops, training, games and school visits. Each time a school would like to make a trip, they have to find at least £60 to cover the cost of a bus. By constructing a draw bridge we will be removing this extra burden on their already strained budget and making a fun and exciting way to move between the army base and Fordhall Farm.”

Watch this space to see how much Olywn managed to raise for this exciting project.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Charlotte learns how to tile

If any of you had read the recent newsletter or the new book The Fight For Fordhall Farm, you will know that the farmhouse bathroom has been in need of repair for some years. Ben, mum and I (and whoever was lucky enough to stay at Fordhall) have had to walk across the yard to our portable shower unit due to the lack of working facilities in the house.

When Fordhall Farm was placed into community ownership last year, 8000 of you became our new reponsible landlords, and the new board of Trustees have decided that it is time we had a bathroom inside! Of course this is fantastic news to Ben, mum and I, especially with the winter coming. The room has taken a long time to come together. The floors had to be stripped, the beams replaced (with oak), walls replastered, new electrics, new plumbing, the works. We have even had thermafleece insulation (sheeps wool) fitted - it's almost like having central heating!

This week the finishing touches have been happening and I even got taught how to tile. But Alec (an ex builder and one of our board members) can't have been too impressed as he only let me do two!
A nice hot bath here we come....

p.s. dont forget that ben has launched his online shop linked from our website when you can now buy our book and dads book 'The Farmer the Plough and the Devil'.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Volunteer Team Impresses Again!

Well, the sunshine came out at Fordhall Farm over the weekend and the volutneers were keen and enthusiastic!

We had a slightly smaller weekend than normal through a combination of limited jobs and cancellations but it meant that everyone got to know one another well and we all worked as a fantastic team.

The selection of jobs over the weekend varied in size. Work began digging the foundations for Ben's new barn which a skilled team focused on, measuring and marking out places for willing volunteers to dig holes!
Other volunteers dug up ragwort to stop it from spreading and poisioning animals whilst others finished putting up the dust sheets in the yurts so it now looks lovely!
Also, butchery planels were moved and stacked neatly, nettles were pulled up, wood was chopped, perching boxes for the chickens were made, tiles were cleaned, and the stationary shed was cleaned and organised (no mean feat!).
All in all, it was a fantastic and fun weekend. Thank you to everyone who made it happen so smoothly. The next volunteer weekend will be Nov 4-5th with a planned bonfire night celebration in the evening. Contact Sophie ( for more information and to reserve your place now as its already booking up!
Don't forget - Grand Charity Quiz on Sat 6th at the Beacon Community Centre in Market Drayton 7.30-10pm. There will be pork baps (veggie alternative) and dessert for everyone. Tickets cost £8 and proceeds go to both Fordhall Community Land Initiative and Pratical Action ( Teams are of 4 people which can also be organised on the night.

Contact Olwyn Clarke on 01630 653767 for more information. Its going to be great fun (and most likely, rather shameful re. our lack of knowledge!) so we hope you can join us both to join in and laugh at us!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Pedal Power Inspires Us All!

Last night we were lucky enough to entertain 3 remarkable young people who are cycling from Lands End to John O'Groats to raise money for their chosen charities. Not only are they slightly crazy, they are also very cheerful and determined! Follow this link to read more about them and maybe even donate to keep them inspired to pedal faster!

All three riders are part of Organic Futures which was established by the Soil Association to promote and support young people entering into farming.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, Ben and volunteers sometimes pop out from the butchery to say hello whilst preparing not only for the Nantwich Show (Fri, Sat and Sun) and the Uttoxeter Farmers Market this weekend, but also for all the online shop orders that have been placed since the new serivce was launched. Follow this link for more information and to find out about the great special deals available.

Reminder: Although the Big Draw has been cancelled on Oct 14th, the farm shop is still active (Wed, Fri, Sat, Sun 11-4) but unfortunately the Nature Trail is currently closed. We are very sorry for the inconvenience but we are also heartened by the huge amount of support you have all offered us. Thank you x

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Year of Food and Farming and Big Draw

What an exciting weekend! Fordhall were invited to take part in the launch of the Year of Food and Farming in Shrewsbury Square, organised by the Shropshire Rural Hub. There was liots of demonstrations going on, including sausage making and wheat grinding. The Fordhall team was cooking and selling meat and hosting an art and craft stall for young people to join in with. The theme was 'What would you miss if there were no farms?' which sparked off many intereting conversations throughout the day.
A huge thanks must go out to all the volunteers who not only helped on the day, but made some of the lovely materials we had to work with. Hidden in the photo on the right not only Alec, but also a tree which young people decorated with things they loved about nature - butterflies were the most popular with the girls!
Another thanks, needs to go to the sustainability department at Shropshire County Council who not only organised lots of art materials for us to use, but also generously donated them to the farm after the event, including paint and glitter!
We look forward to working with them again in the future.
And now, for the sadder news - the Big Draw and Farmers Market on Oct 14th has been CANCELLED due to the continual risk of Foot and Mouth. It was a difficult decision to make, especially following a rollercoaster summer of cancelled events, but we feel the risk is too great. We are very sorry for any confusion. The Nature Trail remains closed until further notice but the Farm Shop is still buzzing Wed, Fri, Sat and Sun 11-4 if you are passing.
Please think of all your local farmers and related industries in these difficult times.
From all at Fordhall x

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Spaceship Lands at Fordhall

Excitment at Fordhall Farm!

Ben's new pig feed store arrived as if a spaceship had landed.

This new peice of farm equpiment will help Ben save money by storing his GM-free vegetarian pig feed in large quanities.

Where has Ben gone?!

As he is launching is online shop, Ben is sending email updates to anyone who would like information about special offers from Fordhall Farm. If you would like more information, please email Ben on

Everything else is ticking along well. Jenny is busy keeping uptodate with the Friend renewals that are being returned and volunteers have been efficient at posting out letters to shareholders - the last of which went out today. Excellent work folks.

And to top it all - its been a beautiful day of sunshine and only very very short showers!!

Watch this space for news on future events and adventures of the Fordhall Team.

Keep warm and dry x

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Chester Literature Festival Book Signing

Come and visit Charlotte and Ben at Chester's Literature Festival and buy your own signed copy of their popular new book 'The Fight For Fordhall Farm'.

"I can't read your book without choking up, I'm so moved by it all and am proud to be involved in a small way. You're truly an inspiration." R. Lewis (shareholder)

The event is taking place on Wednesday 3rd October at 7.30 pm. It will be held in Chester Guildhall, Watergate Street, Chester CH1 2LA.

Tickets are £6.50 (£5.50 concessions) and are available from the Chester Festivals Box Office 01244 304 618. For further information, please visit or telephone 01244 674020.

Both Charlotte and Ben are looking forward to having the opportunity to meet shareholders and supporters in the area and hope to see you there!

ps - shareholders continue to fight for the cause all over the country by requesting libraries to stock a copy of the book. Excellent news! Why don't you try it? Every bit helps x

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ludlow Food Festival - A Big Success

Well, all the preperations for Ludlow Food Festival paid dividends as Ben and team (courier Dave, Sophie, Yvonne, Charlotte, Oli, Maz and Denise) all trundelled to south Shropshire over the weekend.

Ben and 'Courier' Dave (there are too many Dave's at Fordhall for them all to be just called Dave!) had spent most of the week preparing the 12 lambs, 10 pigs and 1 cow, or was it 12 pigs and 10 lambs? I'm not sure, but it certainly wasn't 10 cows - although I am sure it seemed like it at the time.... Harriet and Rosie both came to volunteer as part of their Duke of Edinburgh Award and spent days helping to make the 1000 burgers that were sold to many hungry visitors on the Fordhall catering stand.

New banners were purchased, as was a new gazebo, to help brighten the stall and get attention from passers by. But nothing could prepare us for the tiring and non-stop trade that the festival brought.

Burgers were sold by Ben and 'Courier' Dave from 8am beginning with the traders breakfast, Maz spent the day chopping onions, Oli and Sophie raffled half a lamb to passers by and Denise, Yvonne and me (Charlotte) sold fresh Angus beef, lamb and Gloucester Old Spot pork to everyone else!

Our book 'The Fight for Fordhall Farm' was also for sale and all were given a welcome boost after I spoke to approximately 100 people in the Castle Garden marquee about the Fordhall story.

All in all, it was a successfull festival.

After calculating takings and deducting the costs of the show, we made a modest profit. However, if we had paid everyone who helped out, that profit would have all been eaten away.... Farming is not an easy business!

But Luckily, even after leaving at 5.30am friday morning and returning at 9pm on sunday evening, we enjoy it much more than the pay :-)

A big thanks must go to Beth for organising such a fantastic event and to all our customers who came over to say hello or buy a joint of meat. We hope you enjoy your dinner, its you guys that keep us in business.

Warmest from all at Fordhall ..... Online Shop - Christmas is next....

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Preparations for Ludlow Food festival begin

The end of the week brings the biggest food event of the year for the Shropshire Farmer - its the famous Ludlow Food Festival held at Ludlow Castle from the 7th-9th September and Fordhall will be there in style.
Ben has booked two large stalls for the Fordhall team to sell their wares. There will be hotdogs, burgers, fresh meat and signed copies of the Fordhall book, written by Charlotte and Ben Hollins themselves.

But, to enable all this to happen there is some serious preperation work going on this week, in Bens new butchery.

10 pigs, 12 lambs and 1 cow went to market and Ben and helpers are busy now getting the produce ready for the weekends show. I went in to take some photos last night (at 10pm) and Ben said "We've got a food festival to get ready for you know", Couriers Dave reply was "I don't smile!".
So carry on they did, and they are in there again all day today. Why not go and say hello at Ludlow this weekend, I am sure the team will be happy to see you.
If your there around 3pm on Saturday, then Charlotte will be doing a talk called 'Muck, Magic and Madness' all about the story of Fordhall in the castle grounds - something not to be missed...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Organic Fortnight and English Breakfasts

Its been another busy bank holiday weekend at Fordhall Farm. Ben and Marie-anne were at Greenfields food fair in Telford whilst Sophie and Courier Dave (aka The 'A' Team) were at the farmers market in Uttoxeter.

Ben also compelted his hay making on Monday with help from 8 willing volunteers and now has an ENORMOUS stack of hay stored in the Dutch barn.

There are roughly 1350 hay bales (someone lost count half way through) which is more than enough for Fordhall, so if you need any you know where to find us - if your a shareholder I'm sure you can get a good deal!

A date for you to know - Organic Fortnight is September 1 -16. The Soil Association have organised many activities to entertain you and inspire your tastebuds - more information is available at

Something to to tempt you: As part of the Organic Fortnight is 'Wake up to an Organic Breakfast'. Yum. A good breakfast = a great day. Whilst your eating just spare a thought for where the food has come from and how well the animals were looked after.

Don't forget that we sell delicious free-range bacon and sausages in the shop (Wed, Fri, Sat and Sun 11 -4) along with porridge, jam and honey. Scrummy stuff to start your day with!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Organic Futures Apprenticeship

The autumn newsletter (currently at the printers so will be with you over the next 2 weeks or so!) we feature some issues facing young farmers trying to enter into the industry. However, due to limited space we could not feature the following information which we feel people should know about. Across the country, people are finding their own solutions to these problems:

The Soil Association Apprenticeship pilot scheme was officially launched on 18th July at Abbey Home Farm. The scheme will take 2 years to complete and it is hoped upon completion, the apprentice will have a valued qualification and more importantly, extensive experience in organic horticulture.

Also in the news, the Commission for Rural Communities have released the State of the Countryside 2007 report which highlights that due to the mass migration of young people (15-29) from rural areas to urban areas, the average age in the countryside was 6 years higher than the towns. This brings huge economical problems and threatens the sustainability of rural communities in general.

For more information on these issues, visit

Monday, August 20, 2007

Sunday Mail Appearance

After a very wet weekend, on what would have been our Family Fun Day, we return to the Fordhall Office and are faced with a flurry of online share applications and phone calls. What has caused this we ask ourselves?

And then, we find out that we were in the Sunday Mail Magazine Yesterday! The photos and interview were taken some while ago, and we had all completely forgotten about the article... until now.

But, as we did not know about it, we do not have a copy of the magazine. Can anyone help? Could you photocopy the article and send a copy to us at the farm?

Our address is: Fordhall Farm, Tern Hill Road, Market Drayton, Shropshire, TF9 3PS.

With all our best wishes and much appreciation

Fordhall x

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Cancelling Family Fun Day

We are extremely sorry to inform you all that we are cancelling the forthcoming Family Fun Day on the 19th August and all planned guided walks over the next couple of weeks. This has been a tough decision for us, especially as everything seemed to have just fallen into place. We are just concerned that although the risk is low, if by any chance anything was to happen, it would be horrendous.

We understand that many people were planning on visiting the farm on August 19th. We are unsure at the moment if the Nature Trail will be open so please watch this space. We will however be putting on some very basic refreshments and the Farm Shop will be open 11 - 4. Please dont forget that we will have limited parking as cars will not be allowed in the field so please use public transport if possible.

But all is not lost! We are going for the 'Third Time Lucky' approach and moving the stalls and some activities to coincide with the already planned Big Draw event on Sunday October 14th so we hope to see you there (11-4).

Thank you for being so understanding. Please keep watching the website for up-to-date information on the situation.

From all at Fordhall x

Something to think about: "Huw Rowlands, a farmer of rare breed Red Poll cattle in Cheshire who is 'fully in favour of vaccination' writes, 'Culling infected animals is intended solely to protect our beef export industry, whilst supermarkets happily continue importing beef from countries such as Brazil, where foot-and-mouth disease is endemic."(The Independent, Letters, 9/8/07)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


As many of you will be aware, there is a current 'static' period in the agricultural industry. Whilst farmers can no longer move their cattle around, they cannot supply their farm shops and other outlets with the necessary products. The potential threat of being contaminated with Foot and Mouth Disease is too great a risk for many to shoulder and precautions are being taken by all.

It is because of this looming danger that we have been seriously considering what action to take regarding the forthcoming Family Fun Day on August 19th at Fordhall Farm. Our difficulty is; the current ban extends to August 17th and if any further action was taken not only would the nature trail have to remain shut, but all visitors would have to be decontaminated upon entering the farm - not everyones 'cup of tea'! Also, because the ban will not be lifted until 2 days prior to the event, Ben may not have any meat to either stock the fridge or provide the hog roast and bbq he has become accustomed to! It is just another knock for the farm after the flooding in July has caused problems with Hay Making. Ben is hoping this week will stay dry enough to get it all baled, but the delay has caused a lot of anxiety around the normally fun and involving activity.

This day has already been postponed due to the flooding in July and we have made it 'bigger and better' to compensate for this, so we are reluctant to cancel unless we have to. Even if we have to go ahead without the hog roast!

We just hope that this situation is resolved as soon as possible so everyone can let go of their breath and continue as normal. We really appreciate your understanding and hope you will keep your eye on our website for further updates.

We are in close talks with DEFRA and hope that if there are no other outbreaks between now and the event. If the next 10 days stays free, we hope to hold the event on August 19th as planned.

Please spare a thought for your local farmers.

From all at Fordhall x

p.s. photos of the hay making (in the sun) coming soon...

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Foot and Mouth Scare

You may have heard that there has been a foot and mouth scare near Guildford in Surrey. As of 10pm Friday evening, there has been a national ban on livestock movements. Luckily this is a long way from Fordhall farm, however we must still exercise the utmost care and take all precautions to protect our animals.

The Farm Shop is still open. As a precaution we have had to close the nature trail and restrict access to our animals. We have disinfectant foot baths for our visitors and we appreciate your cooperation.

Ben is at Owestry show today as planned. It has still gone ahead but there will be no animals at the show.

We had planned to be at Shrewsbury Flower Show next weekend and we hope that this will go ahead but at the moment we are unsure if Ben will be able to take his animals to slaughter this week. This is particulary worrying as we obviously rely on being able to sell our produce direct to the customer for our survival.

We really appreciate all your support and will keep you updated as this situation develops. We are confident that the lessons learnt following the last outbreak in 2001 will limit the spread and effect this time.

Ben and Charlotte

Friday, August 03, 2007

Fordhall in the Daily Mail and in Book Shrop!

Charlotte and Ben's Book 'The Fight for Fordhall farm' was reviewed in todays Daily Mail by Richard Benson.

Yet another boost to the book sales following on from a Book Signing yesterday in Book Shrop in Whitchurch. They both gave a talk as many quests squeezed into the book shop, they then signed books before returning to Fordhall to get ready for todays farmers market in Shrewsbury.

OOh the life of a farmer!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Fordhall Butchery expands

At last Farmer Ben is able to move from his small lean to on the side of the house to a new larger butchery in the dutch barn. He has spent the last few weeks with many helpers putting together walk-in fridges and butchery spaces and they are almost complete. You can see Alec below helping to seal the curved edges of the room so that Environmental Health are happy. They can not leave any corners which may harbour bacteria and no holes that may allow flies and other insects to enter the food area. They have also have to sand balst the floor to make it move level so that cleaning is made easy.

The fridge panels were all second hand and they have done all the work themselves so that costs are kept as low as possible.

This new space will allow Ben more freedom with butchering his meats and in the future, will allow him enough space to butcher full carcasses.

At the moment all Fordhall livestock travel to a local butchers and abbottoir in Eccleshall (WM Perrys). They do the majority of the butchering allowing Ben to joint it up, steak and pack, all ready for the farm shop.

I have to say that the butchery is all Ben has talked about for the last week or so, and if you can't find him around the farm, then this is where he will be hiding.

He has been particularly proud of the plumbing - having done it all himself. Although this morning there did seem to be a leak through the ceiling!!

We'll keep you updated with the butchery move, as I am sure Ben will be keen to show it off once it is all completed.

Don't forget that Ben also now has is online shop for a limited range of Fordhall meats. See and click on the shop link.