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Autumn 2016

Autumn Farm Report

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brookthorpe_cows-and-a-new-bullAutumn is now in the air, the mornings are crisp and misty. The poplar tree in the farm yard at Brookthorpe is always the first to drop its leaves and they are starting to drop off now. We have had a good summer, the mix of rain and sun has meant grass has been plentiful. We have enough hay and silage to see us through the winter. Since having cows at SCA we have always borrowed or hired a bull, but we recently bought our own. He is a pedigree Hereford from a local farm. His official name is Wonderland 1 Bonanza. However he will get a nick name that is less of a mouthful. We've had a few good proposals that came from our Facebook page visitors, that include names like Wooley, Sir Loin, Ferdinand, Bartholomew and Stroganoff, and we are still thinking of the name that would fully reflect his personality so please continue sending your suggestions and we will let you know! We had a Barn Dance on our farm at Brookthorpe this September and it went off without a hitch. All the people who came seemed to all be enjoying themselves. We had a BBQ and a bar and several people camped the night too and the dance floor was full! We will be going back to the usual spring Barn Dance next year as it looks like it would be more convenient for many people to participate (it's always good to stretch your legs after the winter, and the weather also should be better!). We promise to let you know the dates as soon as we can, so you can book it in your diary!

Farmer Sam Hardiman

News from the Veggie Fields

carrot1This season has probably been one the best we have had, with very good growing conditions throughout the summer. No extremes - enough rain and sun - most crops have grown well and we have an abundance of crops going into the autumn and winter.

However, having said all that, it has also been a season of plant diseases. The frequent humid weather seems to have encouraged some leaf diseases. All of our cucumber plants in the walled garden died, just as they were beginning to fruit which was a shame (hence the reason for the many half cucumbers in the share, these were grown in the polytunnel in Hawkwood and were unaffected). Also, our plot of potatoes succumbed to blight about a month earlier than we usually expect it. We first noticed a small patch of affected plants and then it spread very quickly and within a fortnight most of the plants were dead which means we had less than half the yield of last year. And to top it off, the beans in the walled garden and celeriac have also been severely affected by their own leaf diseases. All is not lost however because fortunately everything else has done very well.

An amazing crop of peppersA particular success this year has been the peppers. These are grown in one of the polytunnels and they have all been phenomenally productive. We have a range of varieties, some pale yellow, red, and purple, and one chilli/sweet pepper called “Hungarian Hot Wax”. These will all continue to produce into the autumn.

I wrote in my article last September about the importance of growing clovers on the farm, as these plants produce their own nitrogen. By mowing or grazing the clover this nitrogen is returned to the soil for use by the following crops.

During the latter part of the summer we try to sow this clover underneath some of the crops that we are growing for harvest later in the season. The conditions and timing has to be just right for this and this year we have managed to undersow the squashes, sweetcorn and cabbage family plants. If you have picked any of the Cavelo kale at Hawkwood this summer you will have seen that there is a thick carpet of red clover growing under the plants. This isn’t because we neglected to weed them, it was deliberately sown! Although the kale needs extra watering they are otherwise unaffected by the clover. When the kale is no longer productive we will mow it down and leave the clover to grow for another two years to feed the soil.

kale undersown with clover

We continue to get great veg for the share from the starter farm. This will continue throughout the autumn and winter. The last thing I would like to say in this report is that we have had a great farm team and work sharers this year, and I appreciate everyones hard work. Sadly Page (one of our farmers) will be leaving us in Sept. We all wish you the best Page, thanks for everything!

Farmer Mark Harrison