Samhain Event 2017

 

Willow lanterns image

Come join us at the farm on Saturday the 28th October for a FREE day of crafting, festivities and eats as we mark the end of the growing season with our 3rd annual Samhain event; SAMHAIN 2017!

Samhain (pronounced SAH-win) is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the “darker half” of the year. And for us, it marks a perfect time to gather together for fun, food, and celebration!

Event Includes 

11:00-13:00 – WILLOW LANTERN WORKSHOP and Autumn Headdress Making. Facilitated workshop with all materials provided for you to make your stunning willow lantern. What will you design? Parade your lantern in a procession through the field later in the day (weather permitting) or see it as part of a lighted display that same evening in our cosy barn.

13:00-15:00 – Lanterns drying…Stay and play, chat or lend a hand if you like for our volunteer day!

17:00-20:00 – Lantern parade, food, and festivities. Give Peas A Chance will be back with their ever-popular food prepared from our very own produce! A warm winter soup, freshly baked rolls, and an autumn fruit crumble will be on the menu.

BOOKING IS ESSENTIAL! There are limited spaces. Please follow the link to book your place.

We look forward to seeing you at the farm OCTOBER 28!

National C.S.A. Day – 1st October 2017

Come down to Burscough Community Farm on Sunday 1st October for a taste of what Community Supported Agriculture is all about.

From 11am-4pm your local CSA farm will be offering farm tours, taster growing sessions, and freshly cooked food grown on site.

We will be just one of the many CSA farms all over the country opening up their doors to the public as part of the CSA Network UK awareness-raising open day.

Have you ever longed to have more control over the way your food is produced? Or wanted to grow vegetables yourself in a way that supports local biodiversity? Or perhaps you like the idea of a healthy outdoor pursuit in the company of friends. This is precisely what CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) is all about.

‘Community supported agriculture (CSA) is a partnership between farmers and consumers in which the responsibilities, risks and rewards of farming are shared. CSA helps address increasing concerns about the lack of transparency, sustainability and resilience of our food system. It is one of the most radical ways that we can re-take control and ownership of our food system.’…..CSA Network UK

From tending the produce in our market garden, harvesting veg for our weekly boxes or supporting our outreach ventures, there are so many opportunities for people at Burscough Community Farm to help our project continue to flourish. And the beauty of CSA is that, as part of that community of supporters, you also reap the benefits of healthy food, exercise, new skills, and good company.

Curious? Come and pay us a visit. You won’t be disappointed.

Organic September – Be Careful Using the ‘O’ Word!

Its ‘s Organic September! That’s what the news says but we have to be very careful with how we describe organic growing on our farm.

We have always grown ‘organically,’ that is to say we never use any pesticides, herbicides or artificial fertilizers. Unfortunately this isn’t enough to call yourself or your produce ‘Organic.’ There are strict laws on calling yourself Organic.

In the topsy-turvy world we live in, farmers that spray your food with chemicals are referred to as ‘conventional.’

Does ‘organic’ food matter to most people? We did a survey at the recent Green Fayre at Beacon Park and most people, when faced with the question ‘which is the most important to you, organic or local?’ answered local.

Does that mean that people should not care if their food is organic? Read this and have a think about it from the Soil Association.

Organic farming is hard,….

…especially dealing with weeds on such fertile soil as ours. We have strategies but they are not always effective. The recent growing season has proved this. Our efforts to keep on top of the weed battle has been lost on several fronts.

I wouldn’t change anything though. Growing ‘organically.’ or should we really say ‘naturally,’ is the only way I know how to do things.

Obviously I don’t want to eat chemically laced food but growing organic food has many other benefits:

  • lt protects and preserves the soil
  • It preserves wildlife
  • It increases biodiversity
  • It doesn’t put the farmer at risk through dealing with dangerous chemicals
  • It is more nutritious (Newcastle University Study)
  • It tastes better

Maybe the last one is subjective, but it seems to work to me.

Sanitising the Countryside

I did a talk some time ago, where I explained why we devote lots of our land to wildlife because it gives places for pests and predators to live in balance, so nothing gets out of control within our growing environment.

After the talk a lady came up to me and ‘explained’ that the reason we haven’t suffered from pest problems is because we are surrounded by conventional farmers busily spraying things out of existence.

Such a viewpoint surprised me. If she was right, it looked pretty bad on conventional farmers. She was basically saying that they ‘sanitised’ the countryside from insect life. Don’t forget, pesticides don’t just kill the bad guys, they also kill the good guys. Killing insects starve the creatures in the food chain above them. No wonder farmland bird decline has been so steep.

My conventional farming neighbour disputed her claim. He explained, on occasions where he has run out of spray and left a patch of his field untreated, the pests have done their damage leaving the sprayed parts untouched.

For me, whichever way you look at it, conventional farming can have negative effects on the natural world; there is always a cost to an easy fix.

We’re Going Organic

We hope we know our customers and they know us. So far, explaining our growing policies and approach to organic certification has been enough for certification not to matter to them. However, I can now announce that we are going for Organic Certification at Burscough Community Farm.

Why are we doing this after all I just said?

It’s always been an annoyance to me having to explain “we farm organically, but cannot call ourselves Organic.” It feels like you’re trying to hide something. Proving that you have not done something is always harder than proving that you have.

Then there is the commercial angle. We need to sell more stuff to keep this project rolling along. We sell our veg boxes but we could do with selling a lot more. I believe that there is a big market out there for wholesale organic produce. We cannot access that market unless we have the piece of paper saying that we are doing what we have done for the last four years.

It is going to cost us money but we hope to able to claim this back from the government’s conversion scheme, so this shouldn’t be a burden for us, at least the next five years.

I also believe that we should be supporting the Soil Association with some of the work that they are doing for many of the things that we think are important.

We will be getting our first inspection soon and I will be able to tell you more about the impacts this will have on running the farm. From the standards that I have seen, we pretty much do all that will be asked of us already.

Thanks Again Gaynor

I do have to make a special mention about our secretary Gaynor Pickering who has worked incredibly hard on this. Once again, Gaynor has made amazing things happen on the farm and we should all thank her for it.

Try Some Yourself

Is eating organic food important to you and would you like to try some of what we grow on the farm? You can sign up for one of our trial veg boxes here.

You can support the farm and what we are trying to achieve by becoming one of our members. Your membership fee goes to pay for compost, seeds, insurance and accountancy fees. It also makes you part of the farm with a say on how we run things. You can sign up to join here.

 

 

 

Grow, Cook and Eat Your Way To A Better Life – A Talk

Wellbeing Cafe Launch Poster

I have been asked to give a presentation for a new project being run by Burscough Hub Group. The Hub have previously run a project to help people gain access to the internet. The new project wants to tackle the issue of loneliness and its negative effect on our health and wellbeing.

The Burscough Hub Group wants to give people the opportunity to meet up for a casual brew and chat.

I’m starting the conversation by telling people about how community farming and all that goes on around it can bring people together to grow food, cook and eat their way to a better life.

I will tell you about  ‘Blue Zones’ the research that showing how to live a longer, healthier life.

If you know of anyone who you think would like to come along please tell them about it.

 

Neil Hickson

All We Are Saying…..is come see our farm.

Give Peas A Chance mobile catering emporium on wheels.

Let’s just say that food is important to us at Burscough Community Farm. Eating good food is a pretty big incentive to growing it as far as I am concerned. It’s a good job that earning money isn’t at the top of the list of reasons why we do it.

Seeing what someone else can produce from the ingredients that we grow is an exciting thing. Tomorrow, our vegetarian catering friends Su and NIck from ‘Give Peas A Chance’ are down on the farm to give us a taste of what they have done with our produce.

The Menu goes like this:

Courgette and tomato soup, with a farm tapas taster plate made up of:
Pakora and falafel accompanied by
Salty dehydrated kale
Tzatziki
Beetroot salad
Hummus

Making exciting vegetarian and vegan food is a wonderful thing and Su and NIck do it well.

We are the green alternative to Ormskirk Motorfest this Sunday, so if watching fast vehicles burn carbon is not your thing, come along and check us out. Find out more here.

And by the way, we are not all vegetarian of vegan, many of our members are fully fledged carnivores; it doesn’t stop them from ‘giving peas a chance.’

How Long Is The Growing Season?

Seasonality or eating fruit and vegetables within the season that we can grow them here in the UK is something that many people have lost touch with. Go into any Supermarket and the shelves are full with whatever you want. Strawberries in January, no problem, Courgettes in March, no problem.

Well there is a problem actually, air miles, carbon footprint and global warming. I am not going to debate those things here, if you don’t believe they exist then you probably haven’t read this far anyway.

I get asked strange questions about this kind of thing all the time; ‘do you have any courgettes ready yet,’ in April? Questions like that seem strange to me because I know we cannot grow them then, but it just underlines the fact that people are so disconnected from how things grow in our country. Walk through a supermarket and it’s no surprise.

So, what is our growing season and when can people expect to buy vegetables from us? This of course depends on the vegetable, the weather, the temperatures and daylight length it will tolerate.

We can be clever and conspire against nature by using the tools of season extension to stretch the growing season a little at both ends. Earlier crops in Spring and later crops in Winter.

Nature still has a hand to play, but you can get a much longer growing season if you have the equipment and the resources to pay for artificial heating and lighting.

Large commercial growers take advantage of such technology, but it still has an environmental cost. Is this more destructive than flying crops half way across the globe?

For us at Burscough Community Farm, season extension means;

  • Electrically heated propagators
  • Crop covering fleece
  • Poly tunnels

By using these things we can get our crops started earlier than nature intended. We can get them growing earlier in the field and even grow things into and through the winter.

I was asked the other day ‘what is your growing season?’ I must be honest, it is difficult to know with any certainty. So much depends on the weather. Now we have our new, larger poly tunnel, we have been given new opportunities that I haven’t yet explored.

Over the last four growing seasons we have officially started the veg shares in mid to late June, generally when the first potatoes are ready. Now we do have the potential to grow some potatoes in the poly tunnel which would bring things on earlier. The poly tunnel also gives us the opportunity to grow some salad crops right into the winter, something that we have never done before.

Waiting for the first potatoes of the season to be ready.

The idea of waiting to launch the veg share until the potatoes are ready to sell is simply because I feel that the veg box/share should be reasonably substantial before we launch it. We don’t want you to be disappointed.

In reality, some crops come ready before the potatoes, so we could offer a smaller box much earlier. Would this be of interest to you?

Please let me know what you think.

 


Cucumbers The Greek Way

Some of our tasty cucumbers

We tried a few cucumbers last year but they weren’t planted or maintained very well; this year we seem to have got everything right and I am astonished how productive our plants are.

Our plants are pumping them out like crazy and what a great summer vegetable it is. Cucumbers make me think of Greece and a holiday I had there over twenty years ago.

Tzatziki turned up on my plate one evening in the restaurant and I asked the waiter what it was. He explained ”is a salad,” but it didn’t look like any salad I had ever eaten. Dipping in was a revelation. Fresh, minty, creamy with tangy garlic, I have loved it ever since. Cooling and fresh, it keeps you coming back for more.

I love Tzatziki as an accompaniment to any Greek food, as a dip and also a great side dish to any curry.

At this time of year though, when cucumbers are so prolific, fresh and tasty, it’s great to have as the centerpiece. As my Greek waiter indicated, it’s a salad in its own right.

My recipe for Tzatziki is:

1 (or 2) large cucumber peeled, de-seeded and grated
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp Mint leaves, finely chopped
Half a large tub of plain Greek yogurt (the actual amount is up to you, depends how ‘yogurty’ you like it).

Note, adding 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice is an option and some recipes have lemon as the main flavour with mint as optional extra. I prefer mine minty.

Method

Peel, de-seed and grate the cucumber, place in a colander, then sprinkle with a little salt. Place a saucer on top and something to weigh it down. Leave for a while so that the salt and weight drive out some of the water from the cucumber. Without this step the dish can become quite watery.

Place all the ingredients in a dish and then mix well. Chill in the fridge. Enjoy

My Tzatziki

If you have a favourite or different recipe for cucumbers or any of our vegetables you can leave them on our recipe page here.

Taster Day – Try Being A Farmer

Some of our happy band of volunteers.

Get a taste of growing your own vegetables and fruit in a community…and leave with some fresh produce of your own.

For anyone wanting to find out more about what it’s like to be a volunteer at the farm, we are offering a choice of two 2-hour taster sessions open to all (members and non-members), starting at 11am and 2pm. YOU ONLY NEED TO REGISTER IF YOU ARE PLANNING ON DRIVING (see below).

There’s always something to do at our farm from tending the produce in our market garden to looking after the chickens, harvesting veg for our weekly boxes or supporting our outreach ventures.

While making the farm flourish, there are also many benefits to being a volunteer: learning eco-friendly growing skills; getting exercise in a healthy outdoor environment; having fun with a community of friends; not to mention taking home and eating delicious, healthy vegetables.

What will the 2-hour session involve?

– an informal talk by Neil Hickson, our farm manager and founder
– a tour of the farm to discover how all the parts fit together
– a sampling of activities we have available in our market garden, the poly tunnel, in the forest garden and with our chickens!

The farms ecological partners, The Tree Bee Society CIC, will have some bees on display whilst Vegetarian and Vegan caterers ‘Give Peas A Chance’ will be rustling up some healthy wholesome snacks made from Burscough Community Farm produce.

In addition to on site volunteering we are also looking for support with some of the more administrative work including volunteers to apply for funding bids. If you’re interested in offering this kind of support, we would love to hear from you and we can talk more about this at the taster day.

Our volunteers have accomplished so much together over the 3 & 1/2 years since we opened. Join our team and you too can play a vital role in our local farm all while spending time in the open air and engaging with nature.

DUE TO LIMITED PARKING SPACE WE HAVE TO RESTRICT THE NUMBER OF CARS ON SITE. IF YOU ARE PLANNING DRIVE TO THE EVENT WE ASK THAT YOU CLICK HERE TO REGISTER (only one registration per car load is necessary).

IF YOU ARE COMING BY OTHER MEANS THERE IS NO LIMIT AND THEREFORE NO NEED TO REGISTER.

Our Two Visitors Paddle Off On Their Adventure

Glenn Sargent and Jason Smith called into the farm last night to spend the night. The two friends from Barrow in the lake district have set out on an adventure to paddle in a kayak and canoe all the way from the River Ribble in Preston right the way down to Stone in Stafford, a distance of 117 miles where Glenn will be reunited with his fiance.

Jason contacted me a couple of weeks ago asking if it would be okay to camp for the night on the farm as he saw it was along their route and would make a handy stopping point at the end of their first day on the water.

It was a pretty tough start to their journey where they had to battle their way against the receding tide up the River Douglas hampered by a heavy rain storm.

Glenn said that it looked easy on the map but paddling up river against the tide made it necessary for them to both jump into the canoe and tow the kayak behind them.

Putting their tent up in our poly tunnel gave them a reasonably dry and comfortable nights sleep. We brought them some towels from home and lent them our stove so it was easier for them to cook their evening meal.

So today they start the next leg of their journey down the Rufford Line to the Leeds to Liverpool canal where they will head through Wigan to camp tonight outside a pub in Ashton-in-Makerfield.

Glenn said that the two of them had been thinking about doing this kind of trip for a while and he fancied an adventure after he had been laid up with a broken ankle. The premature death from cancer of one of Glenn’s footballing friends, Gareth Brown, gave them the extra motivation to make it happen.

Glenn is raising money for Cancer Research UK through the JustGiving site at: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/glenn-sargent1?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=fundraisingpage&utm_content=Glenn-Sargent1&utm_campaign=pfp-share

They hope to complete their journey on Friday night at The Star Pub in Stone, Staffordshire. Glenn’s fiance’s parents used to run the pub and he will be reunited with her for a celebration of their journey.

Update Friday 18th of August

I am pleased to say that Jason and Glenn succesfully finished their journey. Here is a screenshot of their Facebook page:

Canoe pair’s Facebook page.