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Spring 2018

Spring Farm News

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Firstly, how can I not mention the weather! We call this the “Spring Newsletter” and I’m writing this on the spring equinox but it has felt distinctly like winter of late. We have had a couple of snow falls this winter the last one being in mid March!

sheep with a baby lamb, both standing on the green grass

Last year when I wrote my Spring Farm Report on the 16th March, we had had lambs and it was warming up and grass was growing and buds were swelling. This year everything is later, we are still awaiting lambs due any day now but it doesn’t really feel like spring yet. There are patches of snow still lingering in places and the grass is reluctant to start growing. In early March we packed the veg in Hawkwood packing shed in -4.5 degree temperatures. Harvesting was slowed a bit by snow flurries and frozen ground. It was cold enough that all the pipes froze in the barn and we had to water the plants with buckets of water collected from the only place with running water, my house! Hopefully all the cold has killed some bugs and pests.

As mentioned the sheep are due to lamb any day now, in fact by the time you are reading this we will probably have lambs born. (Sam was indeed right – the first lambs came into this world on the 22nd of March! – see below – ed.). The sheep have access to the barn and can come and go as they please. It is cleaner and more natural to lamb outdoors, however with the weather as it has been I have given them the option to lamb indoors if they please. This year we are lambing more sheep than ever before. We have 16 sheep that went to the ram, some are young and may not lamb this year, but there should still be lots of lambs running around Easter. Please feel free to come and visit them, they are in the back of the Brookthorpe barn, as always please supervise your children on the farm and keep dogs on a lead please.

We are due some calves soon too, the cows stay in the barn over winter but will be heading out onto the fields in April.

We have done a lot of fence repair this year. Last year we bought a new post driver that goes on the tractor and makes the job a lot easier. We have healthy bank reserves, and are currently planning on investing more in the farm. One area is our machinery. A lot of it is either old, not fit for purpose or we simply don’t have what we need.

Farmer Sam sitting on a red tractorWe have recently bought a little Massey Ferguson tractor that will be used in the vegetable fields to cultivate, weed and plant veg. The other area is securing a new water supply to our Brookthorpe farm. This will enable us to have an increased water volume and pressure – something we have not had up till now.

I hope by the time I write my next newsletter article spring has sprung and its a lot warmer.

Farmer Sam Hardiman

Spring news from the Veggie Fields

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I guess the big talking point of this winter is the severe cold snap, the “Beast from the East”.Well I was away that week and missed it all, so I’ll leave it to Sam to describe how they struggled on through the arctic conditions to get the veg harvested and packed and keep on top of things. They worked hard and managed everything, well done guys!We took extra precautions beforehand to cover any vulnerable crops and we seem to have come through relatively unscathed. Generally it has been a cold winter, plenty of frost, not too wet, a good healthy winter.

seedlings growing in a propagator

Some of our winter crops have run out now, beetroot and celeriac for instance. Some are starting to finish but we still have tons of carrots, parsnips, and swede to keep us going through the spring. I think that we will be putting parsnips in the share every week for a while now as they grew so well last season and we have so many still in the ground. There are cauliflowers, cabbage and purple sprouting broccoli in the field yet to mature, and the salads and chard in the polytunnels are starting to grow after their winter stasis during January and February. As these winter crops end we will begin to buy in veg from warmer climes to fill what is known as the “hungry gap”, that time when all of the winter crops have finished and the spring crops have yet to mature.

The greenhouse at the farm in Brookthorpe is full of newly sown seedlings. Most of these are on heated benches to encourage them to grow that bit quicker. These will be ready for planting out at the beginning of April. Some will go into the polytunnels and some will be planted out in the fields.We sowed the first outdoor crop just before the big freeze, broad beans at Oakbrook… they weren’t too happy about that.We had enough of a dry spell in the middle of February that we had to get on and sow them while we still could get onto the land. Other crops sown include carrots and radish in the polytunnels.

row of four trees with snowed in groundWe will be hosting two other enterprises on the farm this season. The first is the Starter Farm (maybe it should be called the Restarter Farm) which will be
managed by Kit, who as I have written before, is returning to the Starter Farm after a years break.We have erected a small greenhouse at Oakbrook for the Starter Farm and hopefully will cover the new polytunnel soon. The second  nterprise will be managed by Jess Marcham who will be growing a bed each of peas and beans to produce seed for the Seed Co-operative (a business set up to encourage the production of seed in the UK).

Here’s to a warm and settled spring,

Farmer Mark Harrison