This year has seen some changes at the farm – not least the departure of our two old sows, Priscilla and Tallulah who produced an absolute mountain of sausages for members and Friends to enjoy. We have produced more pork this year by buying in weaners (eight weeks old) from Rosegate Farm in Swavesey and have started to do our own butchery, also using the facilities at Rosegate. This has given us much more control over the process and we are now producing some really fine, slow grown, outdoor reared pork.
2014 also saw the arrival of our first sheep, a group of cade (bottle fed) lambs. It was a lot more work than I was initially expecting, with their demands for bottles at all hours of the night. We unfortunately lost two lambs in the early days – not uncommon as they’ve had such a rough start to life. The remaining little flock have grown well on the grass in the bottom paddocks and we are looking forward to enjoying the first Hempsals’ roast lamb very early in the new year. With the addition of the sheep, we are finally using up all the paddocks on the farm and eeryone has enjoyed the experience so much we are looking to get a small ‘starter flock’ over the winter so we can produce our own lambs next year.
In late spring, two of our goats, Cyndi and Clementine, both had kids and we ended up with three boys! We were quite pleased with this outcome as we have plenty of milking goats at the moment and it will mean an extra helping or two of goat curry in spring 2015 when the boys are grown up a bit!
The most disappointing and difficult part of the year was when a virus almost wiped out our young turkey poults. After a lot of disinfecting and care, we have managed to save nine birds. We had to buy in some older poults to make up numbers and are very happy to be able to offer Christmas geese and turkeys to members and Friends again this year.
We also had a better year for vegetable growing, seeing lots of cabbages and broccoli for the first time and our soft fruit bushes have started to produce good crops. The warm weather in early spring and mild start to autumn has meant that the our veg boxes have been huge and healthy for much longer this year. We also saw the onset of mechanisation at the farm with the new potato machinery which has allowed us to grow more potatoes much more easily than in previous years.
We ran a number of special events through the year, starting, almost a year ago with a very popular ‘petting stall’ at the Willingham Feast organised by Matt and Caroline. A cheese tasting session for the Willingham School Association in January was very well attended and we’ve been asked back again next year. We also ran a ‘How to handle half a pig evening’. Last week also saw a really successful Open Day, where we welcomed around eighty visitors to the farm who all had an enjoyable and hopefully interesting time.
Finally, the farm continues to be a positive force in the wider community, we have successfully run hatching programs in two local primary schools, had farm visits from Scouts and Rainbows groups and welcomed regular Saturday visits from a number of disabled ladies from the supported accommodation centre at Wilford Furlong in Willingham. Jenny has also brought a toddler group to the farm regularly over the summer and we’ve had two teenagers working at the farm for their community service part of the Duke of Edinburgh’s award. I’ve also given a number of talks about the farm and our activities, most recently at Scallywags pre-school in Oakington and an evening talk to the Houghton and Wyton Horticultural Society.