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February Update

Another month has quickly flown by and here we are with our monthly round-up of what’s been happening on the farm lately. 

Nature Friendly Farming Network

We always enjoy welcoming visitors to the farm, and host various events throughout the month from school visits to private events. This is a great way to share and exchange knowledge with those who are passionate about the same interests. 

This month we had the pleasure of hosting the Kent Nature Friendly Farming Network meeting. Members had the opportunity to sample the home made farm produced food, and listen to James Loder-Symonds, managing director of Nonington Farms, speak about our sustainable farming journey and the three core pillars of our farm ethos: Learn, Grow, Protect.

After this, they were taken on a farm tour. The first stop of the tour was to see one of our many laid hedges on the farm, combined with a live demonstration of the rural craft of hedge laying and the theory behind its uses with expert Michael White. Michael demonstrates the style of hedge laying specific to this area – south eastern binding, and explains the environmental value laid hedges provides, for instance, creating wildlife friendly nature corridors and habitats, offering an abundance of food for foraging animals and insects.

Alongside the 350m of hedges that Michael has been laying around the farm this winter, we have also joined forces with him to host our first Hedge Laying course, an opportunity to learn how to master the skill of laying a hedge, by learning from Michael about the best way to do this. We were really impressed by the speed with which the participants picked up the skill, and were able to lay about 30m of hedge over the weekend. Their skills will be used in exciting other projects, including one in London and one at the Canterbury Golf course. Well done to Michael and huge thanks to all the participants for making it such a great weekend. Thanks too to Goodnestone Park Gardens for offering the space and hedge to create the course.

Tree planting 

An ongoing project this season is planting trees and hedges around the farm. So far, we have planted 400 trees: a diverse mixture of native species. The goal is to create longevity and biodiversity and to create habitats for wildlife, as well as capturing carbon from the atmosphere. 

Sheep scanning

With Spring just around the corner, it’s time to start scanning the sheep to see if they are in lamb. It’s always an exciting experience to see whether it’s a positive result, and if it’s twins or even triplets in some cases. 

Flour news

In other news, we are excited to announce the addition of the new powder applicator in the mill, enabling us to now sell all types of flour to retail as well as wholesale. We sell a selection of different flours such as wholemeal, strong white and pasta, supplying local bakers and restaurants in the area.  

Cover crop trial update

We reported last time that we have been undertaking a cover crop trial with Southern Water, ADHB  and FWAG. Last week we went to The Old Dairy café in Goodnestone to share the results of the trial, and set it up for next year too. There was an opportunity for farmers to understand their individual SNM results, learn about cover crops. Interestingly there was a real desire for more understanding amongst farmers of how to integrate livestock in to their arable rotations, so we will be working with FWAG and Natural England to develop a series of workshops to address this.

In addition to the cover crop information, there was a great presentation about carabid and dung beetles – again, we will be hosting further workshops to learn more about these amazing creatures!
It’s great to be a part of our cluster group and we thoroughly enjoyed all the knowledge sharing in the room and on the farm.