At last a newsletter, lots of news to share and an AGM coming up on 12th October, preceded by the Ecodynamic AGM and followed by an Oakbrook Farm walk. Proper invites to be sent by email with all the information. Apologies for the lack of newsletters over the last year, it has been one of many changes which are now settling down into a new and positive pattern.
As you may have seen from our website or other communications, we have a new Operations Manager, Tom Brenan. Tom comes to us with a wealth of expertise, knowledge and interest. He did the biodynamic horticulture course at Emerson, is an experienced public interest environmental lawyer, and has worked for a number of environmental charities. He was also one of our initial directors on the Board for four years. He has taken on the responsibilities and tasks carried by Natasha Ramm over the last three years as well as most of mine (Gabriel) as I am now working just as back-up to Tom and on some specific tasks.
Appointing Tom to this new combined post has been the final action of a year of working into a new mode of caring for the land we hold in trust for the community. We call this ‘stewardship’ as we are stewarding, caring for, this land we hold as well as stewarding the organisation and its mission. We are caring for it, maintaining it so that is healthy and continues to do what you, our supporters, joined it for. Tom works to the direction of the Board which is still made up of Ian Nicholson, Lucas Shoemaker, Chris Stockdale, Stella Parkes and myself. We also have a new guest director Richard Bates who has so far just been with us for one meeting.
Over the last year Elizabeth Winkler has also left as our budgets have had to be more modest, she is still working freelance so can be asked if needed. Natasha Ramm is now supporting Wynstones School administration and I am working more for the Biodynamic Association as its executive lead.
As you can see from the reports the land at Brambletye Fields of Tablehurst is flourishing though it had new water pipes laid through it from Weir Wood Reservoir last year which made a bit of a mess and took rather a long time to complete. Southern Water are now considering works on the River Medway which flows through but ultimately this work will be an improvement and should reduce flooding.
Huxhams Cross Farm and the Apricot Centre are going from strength to strength. The team are producing fantastic vegetables and fruit, lovely glowing eggs and caring for the farm environment and nature with spaces for Cirl Buntings, orchids and many other species with two lovely cows to help. They are engaging with young people, providing trainings and generally providing a local community connected farm that grows quality local food in an environmentally supportive way. The difference in the soil since they have started working with the farm is astounding, going from a compact almost lifeless grey/yellow marl to a soft brown red rich deep soil fit to grow veg and fruit in only three years. The magic of biodynamic preparations and good farming practice.
At Oakbrook Farm the activities are also going from strength to strength and a proper management team of directors of the new Oakbrook Community Benefit Society is helping to hold this. Kees the Micro Dairy farmer, Christian the beekeeper, Lucas Shoemaker our Land Trust vice chair and Martin Large have taken this directorship and fundraising on so as to develop the infrastructure to support both farming and ancillary supportive activities. We are delighted that new steps can be engaged with this additional team at the helm. Funding will be key to the speed at which this can move forward.
We are continuing to support new possible projects and enquirers and are working towards a new category of farm connected to the Trust. This is Associated Farm status where a farm has been promised to come to the Land Trust in the future as gift, will or other arrangement and both sides want to build a good relationship and be mutually supportive. Do contact us if you think this might apply to you and your land/farm.
Gabriel Kaye, director and society secretary