The first and grandest idea we introduced was to expand and improve our Pick Your Own fruit season. This would involve the construction of polytunnels to provide a space for growing fruit indoors, complementing the outdoor fields we’ve used for the last 40 years. And we've pulled out all the stops to achieve this...
The first strawberries were planted at the start of April and at the time of writing we’re on track to have strawberries available for picking at the start of June! We’ll never have had such an early start to a fruit season. Better still, through a combination of indoor and outdoor growing, and the use of different varieties that ripen at different times, we hope to have strawberries available to pick through until the end of August. That’s a three month window for strawberry picking!
It’s worth saying that availability during this summer-long season will vary day by day. It would take scores of polytunnels to guarantee a supply every day. But even so, it’s a big improvement on the 10 day seasons we had in 2017 and 2018!
This is such a big development for the farm, it will necessitate some changes to how the Pick Your Own operation has worked in the past, including the way we charge. My next blog post will go into these changes in detail, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
From the resolution that has gone spectacularly well… to the one that hasn’t!
Responding to requests to host more evening meals at the farm, we hatched a plan to have a monthly dining evening. Well, it started well enough – at Lancashire Night in January we were joined by around 30 guests who tucked into their hearty hot-pot and sent us some lovely feedback about their evenings. But that was to prove the high point…
Our second event in February had only a couple of tables booked with a week to go and the interest in our Mothers’ Day evening meal in March was even less, forcing us to call both off. Our hunch is that there’s an enthusiastic little group of you who enjoy dining with us on the farm in the evenings, but doing so every month might be a bit much. So for now, we’re putting our 'Farmers Table' idea on the back-burner with a view to hosting more evening meals in future, just maybe not as often as we’d intended.
On a more positive note, separate to the evening meals, we hosted our first ever Gin Night in February. This was a big success, with the café full of keen (and tipsy) gin tasters trying Farmer Tod’s fruity tipples! Again, it might be a bit much to host these nights regularly, but we’ll definitely look to put on another gin tasting evening later in the year.
Keen to offer more adult-focused events, we developed the idea of ‘adult workshops’: hands-on master-classes for small groups to come to the farm and learn different skills in a relaxed environment. So far we’ve hosted sessions to make festive table centres, learn about Farmer Tod’s tractors, get started with pruning, and grow a veg garden – it’s been a busy few months! In fact next Saturday we’re getting creative with hanging baskets and there still spaces available if you fancy getting involved.
Play Area Make-Over
With only a short window available to renovate the play area before our busy season, we really got our teeth stuck into this particular project. And we were thrilled to get it done and dusted just in time for Easter!
I've only just written a post introducing our new park, Kenyon Small Farm, so don’t intend to write anything further here. Other than to say we're delighted with the feedback we've had so far, and hope you (or at least your children) will enjoy our rustic, rambling mini-farm for many years to come.
More Junior Farmers
Our final resolution was to build on the success of 2018’s idea – Junior Farmers – and run more regular sessions, almost every month. So... in January we learned about tractors, in February we grew our veggies, March was all about sensory herbs and over the last couple of weeks during April we’ve welcomed nearly 400 children to learn about chickens and eggs!
All in all, we're fairly pleased with how things have progressed during these first four months of 2019. It's good to have this opportunity to share our progress with you and hope you'll feel the farm is moving in the right direction. The next post (or two or three) and all of my energy for the next few months will be focused on the transformation of the Pick Your Own season coming up, so it might be a while before I get chance to talk about anything other than strawberries!
Thanks for reading,
James Bulmer, 22nd April 2019