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December 2020

News From the Farm: First signs of Winter

Winter is starting to take hold at Oakbrook Farm, but the pace is picking up for some of our newer tenants on site. In just over a month, the Zerodig project has completed the construction of their permanent beds. Each bed is a careful layering of compost (from Stroud Micro Dairy) and dug up soil from their site, with woodchip paths to suppress weeds and encourage microrhyzial (fungal) interactions. 

Along with the students of The Grove, they have also completed filling their two Johnson-Su Bioreactors with fallen leaves. These cylindrical constructions are a composting method that creates biologically enhanced compost, improving soil health and encouraging carbon sequestration. As it requires no turning, the fungi grow undisturbed, building richer and healthier compost. 

After such a hive of activity, they are now cracking on with their sowing calendar and will be starting propagation in the New Year. 

The agroforestry project is also taking off over these quieter, colder months, as Jessie Marcham and Sarah Robertson have started planting up the two pilot strips of ‘Oakbrook Orchard’. Thanks to help from a team of willing volunteers, 20 jostaberry plants and hundreds of daffodils have already gone in, with 20 apple trees to follow within the next couple of weeks, and more soft fruit soon after that. Keep your eyes peeled for this edible food forest appearing next to the footpath across the farm! 

Students from The Grove have been busying themselves about the farm, helping out with the Zerodig project, building dens, the occasional feeding of bees at the Bee Observatory and taking part in some much needed site maintenance. They run sessions at The Haven field on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for ages 6 – 16.

We have been delighted to welcome back Ellie’s chickens to Oakbrook Farm this autumn. They spent much of the summer in our neighbor SCA’s fields, but are now happily back by the footpath just below the arable fields. The chickens are all doing well, but news that bird flu has reached Stroud is slightly worrying for Ellie. She is disinfecting all equipment and boots going in and out of the chickens, and would rather people kept their distance over the next few weeks to avoid any unwanted transmission. We will let you know any developments on this front. 

Over at the Micro Dairy, their two new cows have settled in well and have helped them out of their tight milk supply that they had in October and November. They have also had two new calves born; the latest, a Welsh Black cross, is a real cutie. You can see him coming in with his mum Darcy every morning. 

The Starter Farm is going through a lot of changes this winter. Rosie has sadly decided to leave the business, so after much deliberation; Nell has decided to continue alone next year. She will use about a third of the current growing space to grow only their infamous salad mix, selling to both restaurants and the public. At the moment she is working on a crop plan and a new name …!

 There is still produce in the Veg Shed every Friday and Saturday, mainly leafy greens and beetroot and they are continuing to supply local businesses. All of their produce is up on for home delivery and they will have a stall at The Long Table on the 21st December. They will continue trading until Christmas, and then Nell will have a break in January, ready to start propagating in February. 

After what seemed like an endless summer at Oakbrook Community Farm, it’s heartening to feel the new energy that our newer tenants are bringing to the site. The Farm is becoming fuller, more diverse and more engaged with our community here in Stroud and we are all very excited to see what the new year will bring.