Fun at the farm one cloudy Saturday
It was a lovely day at the farm last Saturday and even without sunshine to boost our spirits, the energy was high, which led to a productive afternoon. The group was a balance of newcomers (myself included) and those who are familiar with the Whitlingham site. Once we’d finished throwing our arms in the air, jogging vigorously on the spot and generally warming up our bodies, we all took to the field for some hearty weeding.
For those of you who have not been to the farm yet, let me try to paint a picture… Of course it may be nicer to simply look at the pictures here on the Facebook page… Anyhow, there are three polytunnels; one currently homing the scrummy salads and chard, another nurturing the spinach and some soon-to-be broad beans and a final polytunnel protecting the delicate seedlings that are almost ready for the great outdoors.
After the weeds were stripped back from the outside edges of the polytunnels, we laid down some paths around the first polytunnel (salad and chard) and prepared the second one (spinach and beans) ready for paths. Most of the day’s activities revolved around carefully pulling out the weeds that were coming into flower so that we could catch them before they seed themselves across the newly prepared field beds.
As with most elements of organic farming, attention to detail is key when removing weeds (and when I talk of weeds here, I refer to plants that have grown in areas we do not deem helpful). Weeds that flower can attract important pollinators towards the crops (bees, butterflies and moths are some examples of the 1,500 species of known pollinator insects in Britain). These pollinators are particularly crucial for the production of our fruit and vegetables, which is one of the reasons to leave areas of flowering weeds where it’s possible. Some plants can rely on the wind to mix the two parts of the plant for reproduction - the pollen (male) and the ovules that contain the female half of the biological resources. This process is called wind pollination or anemophily (for those of you who like to be technical). For most plants, the male and female sections of the flower must mix to allow for fruits (or vegetables) to grow out of where the flower was. Although the pollen is near to the ovules, sometimes a plant needs a bit of assistance to make contact, so bees, butterflies and moths do this as they bob from flower to flower.
For some time, as many of you know, there has been a dramatic decline of pollinators in Britain, some of which can be attributed to the lack of habitats (ideal plants or niche environments) for the pollinators to lay their eggs on or their young to feed on. For example, common nettles are perfect leaves for small tortoiseshell, comma and red admiral butterflies to lay their eggs on. Unfortunately, for many people, the best habitats for young bugs are often the plants that are not deemed as desirable, such as stingy nettles. So I guess this is my way of hinting to those who don’t mind a nettle or two around, to leave some less typically desirable plants in your gardens for our little pollinator friends. ...At this point, I realise, I have strayed far away from the day on the farm!
...To meander back… As a newcomer, who has only lived the activities of Whitlingham farm through the weekly newsletters, I can now say that it was wonderful to roll up my sleeves and join in. If weeding isn’t what you enjoy, there are always plenty of other jobs to do. After lunch on Saturday we all broke up into smaller groups as some prepared the polytunnel beds, a few watered and tended to the seedlings, whilst others turned the compost and looked for any holes the burrowing rabbits made whilst we weren’t looking. At Farmshare, the day runs at your pace and there is always a person to chat to, ask a question or simply enjoy the company of. Work days are every Thursday or the first Saturday of every month from 11am -3pm, if you fancy a trip to the Whitlingham Nursery. Directions can be found here.
Getting so excited about pollinators, I’ve missed the opportunity to introduce myself (the newcomer to the farm, and Farmshare!). My name is Surya and I have recently become a member of Farmshare. Just like yourself, I believe the food we eat should be grown via natural means and in ways that support the community, the growers and the environment, so it truly brings me joy to know that I am part of a cooperative that does exactly this. Although I am new to Farmshare, I am quite familiar with the workings of a cooperative from my involvement with a group of farmers in India who are working hard to start running a farmers cooperative of their own, that will strive to support their local community in a number of ways. If you fancy a peek into the world of Aranya Eco Village, click here. My passion to support cooperatives, and be part of them, was most definitely attributed to the understanding I gained from Aranya. It taught me (through research and experience) the big changes small cooperatives can make in their communities. This really makes me value all that Farmshare represents. So that is a little bit about me and how I come to be writing this blog post today. I look forward to meeting you over the coming months.
Before I ‘buzzzzz’ off - thank you to all the members who came to the Saturday work day - it was great. A big thank you to those of you who helped out over the past three days at the County Hall stall, engaging the people of Norwich with Farmshare, and to you, Robert Crew, who came to the rescue when our guiding (mother-of-all) spreadsheet failed. Robert’s created a superb new one that is user-friendly and, I have heard, very attractive!
So to end, I would like to steal a very fitting quote from Joel’s previous blog post -
‘Team work makes the dream work’.