Well, well, well, what a year 2016 was! Here are some of our highlights and some of what we're looking forward to this coming year.
The biggest highlight for myself was leaving teaching in a classroom and coming full time on the farm, sometimes I have to stop and think...is this real!? Don't I need to be planning a maths lesson for children to sit behind desks and do in a classroom!? Then my heart leaps a little as I realise..I am living my dream! Second highlight is that the sheep flock is growing; when I returned home from university we were down to just 65 ewes. Now, in 2017 (3 1/2 years later) we're back up to 170 and looking to grow some more.
The arable side of things was interesting in 2016, we started the year by praying over our land and asking God to give us some direction on what to do next. A constant fight against blackgrass and this years low yields has been tough, however we have had a year of opportunity and experimentation. We have grown maize and rye for the Anaerobic Digester for the first time ever, we have grown barley for the first time in my personal memory and we have ploughed a couple of fields to fight blackgrass. Change is inevitable and we believe with God's help we will make right decisions for this land that He has blessed us with.
The Farm Education Centre this year has been a joy to grow, throughout 2016 we have had 22 school visits and even ventured into doing a birthday party! We hope that in 2017 that number will grow as word spreads about what we're doing here. I will be starting this year by going into schools and delivering FREE assemblies about where food comes from (if you know of anyone who would be interested please pass on my details!). From there we hope to have more schools on our partnership scheme by September 2017 and hopefully a few more school lambing visits. I will then be looking to create a short promotional video showing what we do here with the education side of things.
Also in 2016, I started my forest schools training and Tesco's Future Farmer Foundation, I will be leading Forest School sessions this February/March and hopefully I'll be a qualified Forest School Leader in May. The Future Farmer Foundation has so far taught me about customer trends, how to market our produce and to narrow down and focus on exactly what I want to achieve in farming. This year I will have the opportunity to visit supply chains to see how a variety of food is processed before reaching the shelves of our supermarkets.
The final thing to mention is HS2 which still is at the forefront of our minds as we head a little bit closer to the build.