Future Farmers II

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 17.11.58A new guide on how to host trainees on your farm has just been launched: Future Farmers II is available to download now. A joint effort by the OGA, Groundspring and Sustain, plus lots of valuable input from the Soil Association, Biodynamic Association and many other knowledgeable individuals, the guide will help signpost new entrants into what kind of work experience, traineeship (paid or unpaid), apprenticeship or paid job they should be looking for; but it is mostly aimed at helping potential host farms and holdings work out what kind of opportunity they could and should create on their farm, to best suit their circumstances.


Under The Broadfork

IMG_20150202_121509 IMG_20150202_121648Well despite the flipping freezing conditions today, it’s sort of felt like the beginning of the season, hurrah – because I cleared out the celery and salad from Fivepenny tunnel, ready for drilling some early rocket, spinach and beetroot in one half, and carrots in the other. I bought a De Wit broadfork a week ago, to loosen up the paths in the tunnels and relieve some of the compaction there; and I might try it in the compacted parts of the field too. It’s so difficult trying to find tools for small scale farms and market gardens thought – everything is either for gardens, or for beefy tractors – there’s not much on offer in between. It’s such a massive gap in the market too…

Sandy clay below the darker compost-rich topsoil
Broadforked pathways

I did find another broadfork with longer tines on offer, but it was more expensive and I wasn’t sure that the extra length would make enough difference to justify the expense. I’ve also seen a few useful videos and diagrams of designs, and more broadforks for sale in the USA which, if I was a welder or woodworker, would be bobbins to make. Hmm, maybe one day… It’s difficult enough trying to keep on top of easy maintenance for my Howard 300 rotovator – I took off the starter handle section today since the pull cord has been getting slower and slower, and now pulls out and stops altogether after the winter break. So I thought I’d take the whole piece off and give it a good clean, as it feels like there’s just a lot of greasy sandy soil in there stopping the cord retracting; but a load of springy metal popped out as I was taking it apart (seems obvious now that that’s how the retraction worked!), and I now have to work out how to out it together again, doh…

IMG_20150202_134534 IMG_20150202_140027Today I also managed to bodge up a long tear in the polytunnel plastic in Vole tunnel, caused by the wind last week beating the skin to hard against one of the ribs, pulling the plastic apart over it. The tension on the skin is too tight to pull the sides back together again to meet though; so I had to make do with cutting up some spare plastic and patching it over the top, sticking it all together with polytunnel repair tape. Hopefully it’ll help the skin last for another year or two anyway – I don’t want to have to reskin tunnels any sooner than I have to! Mending tunnels over the hoops is such a pain – I have no way of reaching over the bending ribs to get to the top, so have to do it from the inside. It’s also extra hard work when you’re on your own, and have no pressure on the other side to push the tape against. Hopefully however I will soon have an assistant grower/trainee for a day a week, starting in April. I’m going to be advertising the position soon, probably in conjunction with my friends at Purton House Organics, who also want a trainee for 4 days a week, so it could work out well. Check out the latest trainee and apprenticeship positions here.


Prince Of Wales’ Food & Farming Summer School 16th-18th July

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 18.05.05This conference actually started today at the Organic Research Centre at Elm Farm in Newbury, but I had too much veg to pick, deliveries to make and beans to weed to attend the first day unfortunately. However I’m looking forward to going round Helen Browning’s Eastbrook Farm and Duchy Home Farm again tomorrow; and then further discussions on Friday back at Elm Farm, when I’ll be taking part in a panel on what the the future of UK farming will look like – I’ll be flying the flag for micro- and small-scale farms and smallholdings of course.

The school programme looks really interesting, and will gather together food industry leaders, researchers, civil servants, farmers and growers, charities and health professionals, to explore the problems of our current food system, and look at the many ways we can produce more food more sustainably. I’m really excited about the programme, and hope to convey the benefits of small scale farming and growing too (I will argue that we need micro, small, medium and large farms in order to meet future challenges); hopefully I can relay some of the excellent points made by the Land Workers’ Alliance too, showing that small economics can add up to big things. The new Food Research Council just published its Square Meal report this week too, so I suspect that much of this will be discussed: how to reconcile sustainable farming, enhancing nature, improving health and better food (choose organic, I hear you cry?!). Meanwhile hopefully my own place will behave itself and the weeds won’t go too beserk…