As autumn gives way to winter on the farm, it's a busy time for staff and volunteers. Harvesting continues apace and I am always amazed at the work that Ian Sumpter, our Community Farmer and his team get through in a day. Out on the field, in all weathers, Ian always has a smile on his face. He cheers everyone's day, even when wellies are glued to the soil and it's 'hoods up' all round for our hard working volunteers.
The team are reaping the rewards of planning done by John English, our Head Grower. John is vital to the way we Farm and weaves his magic every year to maximise the organic vegetables we grow on the 15 acres we Farm. Just imagine the challenges of planning that amount of vegetable production? I don't know how he does it but every year the fine rows of healthy crops are testament to John's experience and commitment.
As the leaves fall off the trees the winter field crops such as Italian kale, curly kale, cabbages and hardy leeks stand tall against storms and freezing temperatures and still produce a harvest. In the wind-free polytunnels winter salad crops are doing well and ready to go into the delicious vegetable boxes we deliver to Bristol, Bath and Frome and have for sale every Saturday morning in our 'Veg Shed' off Denny Lane, Chew Magna.
The Farm is a beautiful and abundant place and it's not just the fresh vegetables that make it so. Since lockdown the majority of hedgerows that surround our fields have not been cut back and once left they have thrived, just like the wildlife they support.
The hedgerow pictured is marked on a map dating back to 1880. It contains a diversity of plants that provide food, shelter and nesting sites for all manner of wildlife. Hawthorn is the dominant plant here, with its deep red berries but there is also blackthorn, alder, spindle, field maple and bramble.
Above: Wood mouse photo courtesy of Trai Anfield
The lovely spindle, although poisonous to us, will be eaten by a variety of creatures including birds, wood mice and even foxes.
Blackbirds and the song thrush are partial to hawthorn berries and will feed on them across the winter. Dunnocks, or 'hedge sparrows' will hop about the hedgerow searching for small insects to eat as will wrens and robins. Let's not forget the colourful great tit, also grateful for the insects, spiders, fruits and seeds found in this natural larder.
Our productive fields are connected to the productive hedgerows that surround them, all part of a natural, organic cycle of life. So, when we buy food for our families let's think about these natural connections and the other species that are working hard to provide for their families, as we are. By buying fresh food and organic groceries from The Community Farm you'll be helping us do our bit to protect wildlife and in the process enjoy delicious healthy food.
By Sarah Pitt