Wednesday, February 22, 2012

February Volunteer Working Weekend!

February 18th - 19th saw our first volunteer working weekend of 2012. We had a fantastic group of people that gave up their spare time to come and help out around the farm.

There were a few familiar faces who have joined us for many working weekends and events previously but there were also a few new faces, I hope the rain doesn't put them off coming back to the farm again in the future?

The weekend had a range of different jobs with the main job being tree planting. After a very quick and easy application form to fill out, Fordhall Farm was lucky enough to receive 420 trees from the Woodland Trust back in January. Due to it being the Queens Jubillee year the Woodland Trust is giving away packs of trees for schools and coummunties to plant to be seen for generations to come.  However what I wasn't aware about was the fact that the farms Community Garden Officer, Bex Syrett, had also applied for 420 trees. Surprisingly, but thankfully, are two applications were accepted and we received 840 trees back in January. We were sent a mixture of trees, I had applied for wildlife orientated trees and Bex had applied for edible trees. Amongst the selection were: Crabapple, Silver Birch, Oak, Hazel, Rowan, Blackthorn and Elder, all will hopefully grow successfully over the next few years and the edible trees will then start to produce fruits for us to harvest.
We managed to plant 600 trees over the weekend, all of which could not have been done without the fantastic help of all the volunteers that came, a huge thank you goes to everyone that took part this weekend!! Although we have 200+ trees still left to plant there is a home planned for all of them and we will hopefully get them all planted by this weekend, fingers crossed.

Other jobs we got done over the weekend were:
1) Repairing table tops for our function room
2) Varnishing table tops and floors
3) Putting signs around the farm and slow signs along the drive
4) Clearing an area for fencing
5) Fencing around a particular area where lots of trees have been planted, protecting them from the cattle seeing them as a tasty meal etc
The next working weekend will be June 9th -10th, hope you can join us then.

Beth Kennett

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bird Feeder Fun!

Wednesday 15th February we are holding a Bird Feeder activity 10am to 12pm. We will be showing how to use recycled items such as yoghurt pots to make perfect feeders for your garden birds. Using left over and stale food makes sure that nothing goes to waste and gives our feathered friends an energy boost made for free from things you no longer need. Perfect!

Make your own Bird Feeder
The moulds were anything I could collect up - washed out yoghurt and humous pots, some small jelly moulds, a couple of old baby bowls. You can use or recycle almost any kind of container - I did some with flat plastic trays that vegetables and meat came in to make slabs to go in the cage on my feeder.

I also used:

2 blocks of lard (cheap supermarket own brand)

A bag of dried mealworms

A bag of wild bird seed

An empty food tin, washed and dry

A ball of string

A pan of hot water

A large dish of cold water

Some cling film

A nice box and some tissue paper (optional!)

Cut the lard into cubes, put them in the tin and stand it in a pot of hot water. I did this on the cooker so I could put a low heat to it if I needed to. You shouldnt need the heat on all the time - you want the lard to warm enough to melt, but NOT hot - it will melt through your containers and burn you if you make it hot.

While it's melting, cut lengths of string and tie them into loops - one for each mould. I put a big knot in each one to give the finished feeder a better grip on the string when hung up.

Put a layer of dried mealworms at the bottom of the moulds. Fill them almost to the top with the wild bird seed. You need to put the worms on the bottom so the seed weighs them down - otherwise they all float to the top.

When your lard is liquid, lift the tin carefully (I wrapped a teatowel around mine) and gently pour into your mould. I used a small skewer to gently stir the mixture to make sure the lard was evenly mixed through. Top up as necessary. Make sure you put enough in to hold the dry ingredients together. Poke the string loop down into the middle of each mould. If this leaves a hole, fill with melted lard.

Once I had done all of my moulds, I put them into a shallow dish of very cold water to speed up the hardening of the lard. Once they were set I put them in the fridge overnight to harden them. Lard is solid but quite soft at room temperature so these are best kept refrigerated until you use them.

You can then hang these from a bird feeder, tree branches or outside a window and watch your gorgeous birds feast on your creation.

Have Fun!

Beth Kennett

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Fordhall Farm on BBC Farming Today - Do we need a new way?

WOW what a week of coverage. Firstly, Fordhall was featured on Escape to the Country on BBC 1 and now BBC Radio 4. The early morning show on Radio 4 every Saturday is Farming Today and we were profiled earlier today as a project who has tried to remove that big barrier to farming - high land prices.

Land values have doubled in the last 4-5 years as the demand for food increases, but the availability of land obviously does not. You will all know that land value was also the big barrier for Ben and I six years ago. Our answer was to place the land in community ownership - you are now the guardians of the land - and as farmers we look after it, producing food for you. The Radio 4 programme looks into the problems land values are having across the country and asks if the Fordhall way could be an answer - well at least part of an answer....maybe?

We were joined by fantastic journalist Charlotte Smith and wonderful land agent and Fordhall trustee, Jack Tavernor (Strutt and Parker), as we mucked out the shed, investigated the community garden and paced out an acre...

Buying a farm and expecting to pay that mortgage off on a farmers' income is pretty impossible, but remove the land value, place it into the ownership of the people, and allow the farmers the security to tenant and farm the land on a long term basis and some of those barriers are suddenly removed, with many more benefits to the farmer and the community inbetween.

Each time a family farm goes on the market is is quite often broken up and sold off in lots to neighbouring farmers, with the house and a paddock sold for city escapes. This is because large farmers crave more land to help spread their overheads, the person selling can make more money from the sale, and no one can afford to buy it as one unit. - it is pretty inevitable.

Once split up and sold off, that farm will never become a family unit again. Furthermore, these larger farms do not employ more people because they have an extra field or two. As a result the opportunities for new people to enter the industry (of which there are many who want to) reduce once again. It is a difficult balance to achieve by farmers and the community alike.

Nonetheless, it seems such a shame to see this happening over and over again,and high land prices encourage this.

What if communities could join together, each not having to put in much money, but together they can become landowners of one or two family sized farms in their community. Farms which will produce food for them and their children, provide jobs and a living for their community, provide access to beautiful green space for everyone, and above all keep our farmland farming by people who care and supported by a community that cares.

Some may say idealistic or over ambitious, but the Fordhall Community Land Initiative is a living breathing example. Fordhall Organic Farm was saved in 2006 by 8000 amazing people - a number smaller than the population of most market towns and through people giving less than they would spend on a pair of trainers or a nice meal out.

Maybe this idea is not so crazy! What if we could all support even just a few of our local farms? What if farms could become the heart of communities once again? What about having the diversity of large farms and small family farms? Can this work? Is this what people want? Or are small family farms becoming a part of our history to enable the growing population to be fed?
Click HERE to listen again to the Radio 4 programme on Farming Today (only available for the next 7 days)

Charlotte Hollins

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Fordhall Farm on Escape to the Country!

Very exciting news for all involved! For those of you who are unaware, Fordhall Farm was featured on BBC's Escape to the Country on 31st January at 2.15pm.

It is a fantastic glimpse into the story and beauty of Fordhall and was a great thrill to have Alistair Appleton and the filming crew here to gather gorgeous pictures of your beautiful farm. They came to film last August 2011 and were in awe of the farm and what it stands for, they were a pleasure to have at the farm and a huge thank you goes to the BBC, Alistair Appleton and all the crew who came and made a wonderful piece to show off Fordhall's magic! We have already had numerous requests to purchase shares in the farm and we cannot be more grateful to everyone's support and generosity now and over the years.

For those of you who missed it you can still watch it on BBC iplayer by clicking on the link below:
Escape to the Country on iplayer

We have also heard that we may be on Radio Four on Saturday 4th February at 6.30am talking about the farm and the story behind the success.

Hopefully 2012 will be just as successful!

Beth Kennett