May 2020 Newsletter.
The last 7 weeks have given me the time to take stock of the world around me; to pause and reflect on those small elements of family life that I usually take for granted.
Our family’s tasks over the past few weeks have all involved food and its origins. The children and I have been busy in our vegetable plot, planting a raised bed for the first time and working the manure from our animals into the soil. I wanted to teach them about the natural food cycle; where the sun and rain feed the crops, which are eaten by our animals as they graze in our grassland. Their waste then enriches the soil with their nutrients, which we add to our compost to aid the growth of our harvest crops. It’s our scaled down way of explaining to them why we produce food with a mixed farm approach, using crops and animals to enhance our soil sustainability.
I’ve always believed that our fate as a civilisation is tied to the land and it’s health, with the soil being our single greatest asset. The next generation need to understand that building a healthy soil is an important method of generating life and minimising the effects of carbon on climate change. That’s why the simple act of teaching my kids how to grow their very first plant is also the first step in teaching them about food cycles and putting back into the soil what you get out of it.
As we start to get our first glimpses of summer sun, our other highlight at the farm is the arrival of 16 new piglets. It’s been a joy to watch the excitement on my youngest’s face as she watches them grow up so quickly. We’ve also planted 40 acres of crops and have even enjoyed the rain that we’ve had, which is helping with germination.
At the butchers we have been working tirelessly to make deliveries both locally and nationwide. I’ve even found myself doing a regular delivery route; a job that has given me a new found respect for the all those out there trying to find an address without phone service! It’s been humbling to drive to so many houses across the region and meet customers new & old.
Ever the optimist, I am hoping that we’ll be able to welcome you back to the farm as soon as possible, reopening our doors for weddings, events and even a festival. Eventually we will be on the otherwise of these times of uncertainty and I’m so excited for a future where our community continues to help each other in building a more resilient landscape of food, farming and sustainable eating.
April 2020 Newsletter.
As I sat down to write this newsletter, I realised that the last one I wrote was in 2016. It shocked me how long it’s been, but as the world seems to be turning upside down, I’ve managed to carve out a little bit of free time for such things and it’s made me realise how important communication still is. One lesson I think we’re all learning, amidst a pandemic, is how precious our relationships with people are and how important it is to call, write or even video chat, just to touch base when we can. The other take-away that I’m noticing, is the sheer positivity & productivity that flourishes in the South West countryside, as it’s become a thriving, tweeting hive of connectivity. Personally, my job has not stopped; the livestock still need to be feed, the crops still need to be planted and the meat boxes still need to be delivered.
The glorious weather, that timed so perfectly with the lockdown, was a blessing for us farmers. After a long wet autumn and winter we are finally able to get out and work longer, as the mornings and evenings get lighter. In recent weeks we’ve managed to get our winter crop forage mix into the ground, let the pigs back out into the woodland and finally let our new cows and calves out to pasture. I think one of my favourite moments of the year is seeing them let out after winter. The calves realising their freedom for the first time and gambolling towards the fields where they will spend the next few years grazing on the lush green, green grass of home.
This time of year always comes with extra challenges, as all stock fencing needs to be checked and replaced if necessary. Along with the checking of water toughs to ensure that they are leak proof and clear of algae. This spring also sees the knock-on effects of a poor 2019 growing season, which meant our silage quality was not what we had hoped for. Then the corvid-19 pandemic created an unexpected demand at the butchers, which has meant both ourselves and our other local farmers are working round the clock to keep up.
Our delivery service has tripled in recent weeks for wholesale and retail customers across Bristol, the Valley & beyond. This came as a huge relief for us, as it’s meant we could keep the shops open and our staff employed. The increase in mail orders also meant it was time to fast-track the launch of our new website and I worked day and night with our developers to get it up and running. Since then, we’ve also opened a new shop on Worle High Street. A project that was in the works since Christmas, but again, plans had to be changed due to the current state of things. Right now we’re working hard to streamline all three shops and have combined our ordering platforms into one place: www.meatboxshop.com.
Our other partners are being challenged by the pandemic as well and The Community Farm has seen a huge spike in customer requests. It’s wonderful to see folk turning to local and sustainable projects at the moment but again the sudden increase in customers has meant they’ve had to develop new supply chains and working strategies for their volunteers, especially as spring is their peak planting season. As of Friday 17th April, they’ve re-opened their website and are allowing weekly registration slots for new customers, which is brilliant to see.
Valley Fest, our summer festival, is still on track to happen at the very end of July, as the event sits outside all current lockdown projections. We’re keeping our fingers & toes firmly crossed and the team continue to work hard in the background to bring you a proper summer knees up.
Go well, stay safe and stay connected,