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Open Farm Sunday 8th June 2014 at Slamsey’s Farm near Braintree in Essex

 

Open Farm Sunday at Slamsey's Farm near Braintree

Open Farm Sunday at Slamsey's Farm near Braintree

A group of us including a 6 year old went to our first Open Farm Sunday event in north Essex a couple of days ago. We were blessed with a bright sunny day and blue skies which got us all in the mood for spending a day outside.

 

tractor fun on the farm

Tractor fun on the farm

Slamsey’s Farm is located near Braintree in north Essex. It’s an arable farm that offers extra services such as caravan storage and premises for other businesses. On arrival, we were directed to the parking area close to the large barns. A couple of tractors and a combine harvester stood in the courtyard – a big attraction for the young children. Our six year old took her turn in climbing up into the tractor’s cab and tooting the horn.

 

Grinding wheat

Grinding wheat for flour

Various tables had been set up in one of the barns and offered a selection of activities. The timetable for the day included several guided tours of the farm, grinding flour by hand and soda bread making for the children, jelly and vegetable printing and toy tractor rides.

We found out about borage which is grown on a neighbouring farm and its reliance on pollinators. The farmer had a partnership with a bee keeper and we were assured that bees prefer borage to anything else and that the honey is far sweeter than any other. It was interesting to learn about the medicinal properties of borage and we purchased a jar of honey to try at home.

Farm tour

Farm tour

Our six year old was desperate to get going on farm trail to complete a quiz sheet that we had downloaded off the Internet before we left.  However, we got talking to a couple of scientists from Oxford University who were conducting a pollinator count as part of a nationwide event that day and were inveigled to join them. The six year old aspires to become a scientist when she grows up and threw herself into counting pollen bugs, bumble bees and butterflies and tallying them on the survey sheet.  We all learned a little more about insects and their role in the countryside.

The farm tour was informative and entertaining. We walked a fair way around the farm in the strong sunshine, stopping to look at wildflowers in the grass verges and discussing the various types. Our guides were two young farmers from neighbouring farms and their knowledge was most impressive. I hadn’t expected men to be so informed or interested in wild flowers.

We saw the difference first hand in wheat that is fertilised and wheat that is not where it had been missed at the edges.  A few rows of wheat at the borders had been munched down to stalks by rabbits. I had no idea that they ate wheat and did so much damage.

Rape seed when planted multiplies itself fifty fold and we all squashed a few seeds between our fingers to feel their oiliness.

We found out that the supermarkets and companies that the wheat and rape seed is sold to demand extremely high quality unpolluted by poppy see or other weeds. The farmers have to comply to sell their products. I have always missed the bright red poppies of yesteryear but understand why they have to be eradicated. This explanation lead on to the crop sprayer and an examination of leaves affected by fungus.

The tour was very good for children who managed to gather a few ears of wheat, a complete broad bean plant with roots which our six year old planted on returning home.

Lots of people brought picnics to eat and enjoy in the field beside the pond. J’s Hospice volunteers also sold cakes and teas in another of the barns to raise money for charity.

There were various other aspects to this day out on a farm, the fruit gin production on the farm and other activities. All in all, it was a most enjoyable and educational day. I’m looking forward to a repeat performance next year.

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