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May 2021 Newsletter

A hearty hello from everyone at Oakbrook Farm! 

Read on for our Spring newsletter including exciting news about our new barn construction and £10,000 of funding secured. 

An update from the OCBS Board of Directors

By Leigh Coghill, Director and Secretary

Many thanks to everyone who attended our Annual General Meeting in February where we said goodbye to Directors Martin and Tarry – thanks to both for their considerable contributions!

Their positions have been filled by myself and Sarah Jackson, who farms in the Slad Valley. It was great to review the fantastic progress made since our inaugural Share Offer was launched in November 2019 – and look forward to the exciting things to come.

Since resigning from the Board, Martin has continued his dedication to Oakbrook and after a lot of hard graft, has managed to secure a £10,000 grant from the National Lottery Awards for All fund. This is an incredible sum which will be put to good use to facilitate public access and install infrastructure within the nature corridor of the brook and the Haven Field. Thank you Martin!

We are also receiving support from new members of our Friends Scheme, through which you can support the ongoing maintenance of the farm by donating £3 per month. Friends are invited to special events (when public gatherings are again permitted) and entitled to discount on bookings for the Haven Field. 

Finally, there’s more good news that we have received planning permission for our ambitious barn! The Directors are currently reviewing quotes for the construction and hope work will commence this Summer. 

An update from the Land Coordinator, Christian Gruetzmacher

Cows, tractors and people have been happily using our new main track which will be finished with a layer of dust later in the Summer. We hope you like our untreated chestnut fencing as much as we do; the initial height around the horticulture zone will keep our young crops safe from deer.

Our volunteer team has put in huge work installing mains water standpipes across the farm for all our tenant projects. Apologies for any blue pipes crossing paths which haven’t been dug in – yet. Visitors to the farm will notice that we are currently preparing the construction site for our future barn. 

As part of their flood prevention scheme, Stroud District Council has created natural leaky damns with ask trunks, willow and hazel along the brook. And finally, we also now have a small team of volunteers preparing to put up signage across the farm to help the keep visitors, farmers and livestock happy and safe.

Growers Update: Jessie & Sarah, Oakbrook Orchard

We are learning a lot from our first spring with the orchard! We planted our first two experimental rows of the agroforestry system last winter; apple trees, soft fruit, rhubarb and daffodils. After a brief lull, spring has been keeping us surprisingly busy, first with daffodil harvesting and sales. We were delighted with all the positive feedback about our mixed bunches of daffodils, and grateful to the local retailers who sold them for us. As daffodil season came to an end, we were creating a nursery bed and grafting 50 new apple trees in anticipation of expanding the orchard in the coming years – with thanks to Day’s Cottage for help with scions, rootstock and grafting tuition.

We have finally managed to plant our strawberries, and we are anxiously watching to see how all the soft fruit fares with the deer in this first season. We’ve also been getting to grips with how to manage the grass (and weeds!) around the trees and soft fruit. With a helping hand from several volunteers, a crucial lesson in the art of scything, and plentiful supplies of mulch, we’re hoping to knock back the docks and keep on top of the grass. 

As we are very much learning on the job – and making things up as we go along – we are really pleased to have been awarded a mentoring and support package from the CSA Network. We hope this will bring us some useful practical advice on crop planning and orchard management, as well as support in putting together a strong business plan for the orchard expansion, and figuring out how we can operate as one of the UK’s first fruit and flower community supported agriculture schemes. 

For more orchard news, check out our new website and occasional blog. Email us on oakbrookorchard@gmail.com to hear about orchard volunteering opportunities.

More thanks goes to OCF tenant Nell Benney who has been doing fantastic work improving our public communications over recent months, in addition to growing beautiful Organic produce for Nell’s Patch (which can be purchased from the front of the farm). She has recently written her first column for Stroud Times which is well worth a read. 

As lockdown restrictions ease educational projects have been started again. You are welcome to use the Haven when it is not reserved and we hope to be able to invite you to organised community events later in the year. Until then many thanks for your support and we hope to see you down on the land soon.