I am just back fresh from a short holiday in Anglesey and ready to take on whatever the growing season next has to throw at me.
Although it was posted a few weeks ago it looks like this one may have gone under the radar for many of you. We are holding one of our now ‘biannual’ general meetings this Sunday at the field. The meeting starts at 2pm, outside if the weather is nice and in the barn if it is raining. The agenda is as follows:
- Minutes of the last meeting
- The new constitution
- Any other business
Please come along and have your say in the future of Burscough Community Farm. If you can't make it but want a question addressing please email me.
Thanks For The Holiday
Jane, Amelia, Sadie and I would like to give a big thank you to all those who kept things ticking over brilliantly whist we took a week off. Thanks very much, it has done us the world of good
The Quality Question
One of the challenges I have with our veg box scheme is planning out how much stuff to grow. We need enough variety and quantity to fill your box and keep the contents interesting. The nightmare situation for me is not having enough veg to put in the boxes. Just as bad is to have grown a whole bed of something that is poor standard, nibbled in some way by insect life. Faced with such a crop, which I know is perfectly edible and would be happy to take home and eat myself, do I stick it in the box and assume you all have the same mindset? Do I put a note in the box to explain this, or do I scrap the crop, feed some to the chickens and compost the rest? These are the questions that I often struggle with.
People have different attitudes and opinions on this. We have supermarkets filled with rows of perfect vegetables achieved at the cost of throwing a great deal of food away, it doesn't all grow beautiful, uniform and blemish free, even in the ‘conventional’ world of chemical farming. There has been a minor backlash to this lately with supermarkets selling ‘ugly’ second grade veg. They tried this in a supermarket chain in France recently and the shelves were empty by lunchtime. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/11131994/Ugly-fruit-and-vegetables-prove-a-hit-in-France.html
Hugh Fernley-Whitenstall had a campaigning programme on this very subject last year. It opened the eyes of lots of people to the waste that goes on before food even reaches the supermarket shelves. So, here I am in the same situation.
Because we have taken on quite a few new veg box customers recently, some of whom have never yet visited the farm, I have to ask myself, will they view the veg that they receive with the same eyes as those of us who have spent so much time and effort growing it? Will they forgive the odd holed leaf or twisted carrot? We are at risk of our crops suffering more blemishes or providing a home for the odd ‘free riding’ slug because we don't take any chemical steps to control these things.
Let's face it, given the choice between a big straight or small bent carrot, most of us would choose the big straight one; it's quicker and easier to prepare for the pot. But is this a ‘deal breaker’ for our customers?
I would be really interested to know people's opinions on this.
Fresh Air, Fresh Start - Active West Lancs Referrals
We have now become a part of ‘Active West Lancs,’ a project to promote better health and wellbeing to the good folk of West Lancashire. http://activewestlancs.org
The Active West Lancs web page explains: ‘Active West Lancs’ is a partnership commissioned by Lancashire County Council to deliver a three year programme to improve health and wellbeing across the borough.
The five partners involved are West Lancashire Borough Council, Skelmersdale Community Food Initiative, West Lancs School Sports Partnership, West Lancs CVS – Community Food Growing and West Lancs Community Leisure Trust.
We have been asked to put together a 12 week program for the GP referral service (or self referral service), a program that can be prescribed to people to help them get back on the route to increased activity following illness, depression, anxiety, diet related health problems etc. In the past this type of referral prescribed a gym program but now they have decided to offer people alternatives.
My response to anyone who finds themselves in this situation is to do the kinds of activities that we do on the farm. We all know it's good for you and can be as gentle or strenuous as you need, it will make you feel good and give a sense of achievement.
I figured that if people could be given the opportunity to sample a range of the farms activities they could reconnect to the land, gain fitness and feel some of the positivity that comes from spending time there. After sampling this range of activities over the 12 weeks people may decide that they want to take up a specific activity Longer term.
These half or one day courses would also be available to members to take part. This is the flyer I produced with the proposals.
A Date for your Diary - Samhain Hot Pot Supper Fund Raiser - If we can raise £550.00 we can release a £5,500.00 grant.
We are planning a Samhain Hot Pot Supper event at Burscough Cricket Club on Saturday 29th October 2016, 7pm-11pm, tickets £7.50 each (to be confirmed when we have numbers). The Cricket Club's bar will be open and we are hiring an outside caterer to provide the hot pot/veggie option and dessert. This is something we have not tried before.
We have been successful in our bid for a grant of £5,500.00 if we can match fund with 11% (£550.00). The grant will be used for a number of projects including hard standing in front of the barn (especially needed in winter months), insulating the barn for storage, barn flooring and a disabled access compost toilet located nearer the barn.
Friends, family and prospective new members are welcome to this event. Please can you let us know if you would like to attend the event so we can give our caterers an idea of numbers.
If you have any ideas for raising funds at the event they would be very welcom. Suggested ideas so far have included a carved pumpkin competition (pay an entry fee to enter a pumpkin you have carved to be judged and win a prize) and a raffle.
Salad Leaves For The Week
I was telling one of our members how I prepare our salad leaf mix for storage and it was suggested that I pass it on.
The salad leaf mix is a new venture for us this season and I hope you are enjoying it. If you are used to buying ready prepared bags of salad leaves from the supermarket all the washing is done for you; very convenient. We don't have the facilities to do this at the farm but it is a simple task and once done you can have salad leaves to hand all week.
Here’s what I do. I tip the bag of leaves into a large bowl in the sink and run the cold tap over it for a few minutes. During this time I agitate the leaves gently encouraging any dust and soil to rinse off the leaves. I also have a sort through and keep an eye out for any stray blades of grass or weeds which may have sneaked through our harvesting/grading process. After this you can add half a teaspoon of salt to the bowl and let it stand for a few minutes. This is to aid dislodging and cleaning away any ‘stowaways’ (slugs and other creepies) who like hiding amongst leaves; we don't use pesticides so this sometimes happens.
I now like to pull out all the leaves and put them in a colander, leaving the salty, gritty water in the bowl. Tip this away, rinse the bowl a fill up again with fresh cold water and throw the leaves back in for a final rinse. After this put the leaves back into the colander and drain them. Give them a quick spin in a salad dryer/spinner if you have one.
To store the leaves I put them in a plastic sealed box or a sealed ziplock plastic bag. I have found that the leaves stay fresh for up to a week like this and they are ready for you to put into a sandwich or mix with lettuce for a great green salad. With salad leaves an airtight box or bag is necessary to keep them fresh and crisp.
If you have any veg processing tips you would like to share send me an email with the details.
If you want to extend your knowledge of climate change, Susan O’Haloran told me about an online course that she did last year presented by the University of Bergen. It doesn't cost anything nor need entry qualifications to take part. The course is starting again on the 5th of September so you have plenty of time to sign up for it.
This is only one of a massive range of free courses that are available online, presented by Universities across the world. I know of another of our members who took a Creative Writing course and spoke very highly of that. Check them out here.
Thats it for now. Sorry if this newsletter was a little 'word heavy' but I hope you found it useful. It will be great to see you on Sunday if you can make it and please let us know if you want to come to the Samhain event.
With kind regards
Peacock Butterfly feeding on the clover.