Hello from everyone at Oakbrook Farm, we hope you're having a wonderful summer. Read on for our newsletter with recent updates and exciting plans including changes to the Stroud Micro Dairy.

First here's a summary of upcoming Events and Volunteer Opportunities

  • Apologies for the last minute notice that tomorrow, Saturday 28th August, will be the last Bee Observatory open day of the summer. All welcome from 2-4pm to spend some time with the most magical of creatures. 
  • Lend a hand to Stroud Community Agriculture who are holding Weeding Wednesdays every week- often here at Oakbrook. Good opportunity to get your hands in the soil, no skills or experience necessary. Check their announcements for specific details each week. 
  • We are so excited that plans for our upcoming Family Wild Play Days are nearly finalised. The first date will be in October (more info to follow). If you have forest school experience – or would like to – and are interested in volunteering to make these events a success, get in touch!

For more information, or if you have another way you would like to get involved, you can always contact us via admin@oakbrookfarm.org.uk

Tenants Update

As our largest tenant we continue to work closely with Kees and Stroud Micro Dairy; his know-how remains invaluable to us. Muddy Fingers, SMD’s soil and forest school, is running again this coming term, and more details are on the website. The Micro-Dairy is hoping to transition to a co-operative model with a share-offer this autumn: an exciting opportunity to take SMD to the next level!    

Last year was a tough year for start-up businesses. After Rosie’s departure, Nell has been continuing on her own at the SCA Starter Farm, re-branding as ‘Nell’s Patch’ and focusing on growing salad, rather than a diverse selection of veg. Despite the disappointing weather we’ve had this year, Nell has continued to supply local restaurants, cafes and market traders with her salad mix and has managed to increase her customer base. She is now selling through Zerodig, who distribute her salad throughout Stroud, along with their own produce. You can buy bags of her salad on StroudCo Food Hub online, or at the 4 Seasons Market in Stroud.

The Oakbrook Orchard agro-forestry trials have had some challenges from the local deer! The trees and fruit bushes are outside the fencing around the horticultural area because it is just a trial, but the first lesson learnt is that they need to be protected! Jessie and Sarah are looking at ways to keep the deer off and have got a tree nursery established inside the stockade. We’re glad that they are taking the trial into another year so fingers are all crossed

An update from OCBS Director David Lambert

The OCBS Board meets monthly with the aim of providing added value to the farmers and addressing the farm as a whole – infrastructure, marketing and promotion, and overall development. We have completed the main track but its continuation down to the brook and up to Uplands is still to be done: the work is planned for late summer/early autumn. We have planning permission for our new barn, and are currently seeking quotes for its construction. We are also getting quotes for more fencing and gates. We are looking at a strategy for signage across the farm, and also starting on the production of a farm-wide land-use plan.

In the spring we commissioned an assessment of the Farm by the Biodynamic Association which was encouraging about the current regime; its only substantial recommendation for improvement was that we needed to address the small amount of effluent from the dairy and that has been done, with the introduction of a tank above the Haven.

One of our two new Directors, Sarah Jackson from Stroud Slad Farm, is bringing her experience of agri-environmental grants to bear on Oakbrook and working with Kees on Countryside Stewardship and its successor. There is also a new grant-programme for farming in the AONB which looks encouraging, and which will support us with improving our capital infrastructure.

Oakbrook’s ecology has been surveyed by Karin Gray as part of her MSc in Applied Ecology. She submitted in July and the results are really helpful to us. Oakbrook’s habitats were assessed in 2016 when the land was bought by the BDLT and it was encouraging to hear that five years on Kees’s management of the unimproved grassland is doing a good job of conserving its value. 

OCBS Director Sarah Fotheringham has praise for our tenants at the Zerodig Project after their recent open day. 

  "The sun was blazing and on the ridge where Zero Dig have been working to change the face of this landscape for the last year, a group of more than 25 people gathered, social distancing and maintaining the local rules of covid, they gathered to hear about what ZeroDig is all about. What Mario Peters and Christopher Upton are so excited by and what Oakbrook Community Farm has been embracing and willing to get into the light as the pandemic has been holding us all in the darkness.

  I had not been involved in a gathering of this size for over a 18 months and it was beautiful. The vegetables were looking rich and full, the colours were fabulous, the sky was blue and the presentation by Christoper – albeit a troublesome sound system, matched the surroundings in terms of interest and information.

  Christopher presented us a great simplified version of the science behind it and the possibilities of this becoming the way forward for regenerative farming where in the next 65 years over 25% of the current farms might be up for sale due to the age of the current farmers and the grave probability that their sons and daughters will not be taking over the hard life of a farmer in the current climate.

  This is what Oakbrook Biodynamic and Community farm is all about: Supporting a regenerative, sustainable and ultimately biodynamic approach to growing quality food, giving the next generation a viable business to get involved in and re-igniting a passion in growing local, fresh produce for local markets." 

We've been enjoying working with local designer Dilly Williams who has designed a leaflet for a guided walk direct to the farm from Stroud. We hope when it's printed in the Autumn it will help more local families to come and spend time in nature at the farm. 

Development on the Haven Field has seen lots of interest in this community space, after a great first year with The Grove who are providing opportunities for outdoor learning for home-educators. Gloucestershire Young Carers also spent a wonderful day getting creative with natural materials (pictures below) – hopefully the first of many!

With funding secured, we are building a new compost loo this summer, in addition to the water standpipe already installed. The Haven Field is available to hire at a discounted rate to friends of the farm – get in touch to discuss if it could be right for your event. 

That's all for now, our next newsletter will have news of our next AGM, and hopefully more planned outdoor gatherings.

Happy August to everyone, 

Leigh and the Oakbrook team