This 41-acre (17- hectare) farm, just outside Stroud, was purchased by the community through the Biodynamic Land Trust in November 2015. Previously known as Lot 3, Hammonds Farm, it was renamed Oakbrook Farm by the community inspired by the land’s beautiful spring-sourced, oak-lined brook and is now home to a cluster of farm enterprises.
Oakbrook Community Benefit Society has now been established and will seek to develop the farm infrastructure.
Stroud Micro Dairy
Stroud Micro Dairy, run by farmer, Kees Frederiks, produces raw milk, kefir, yogurt and cheese for the people of Stroud thanks to its Holstein-Jersey cows. Established in March 2017, Stroud Micro Dairy now farms 36 hectares with Oakbrook Farm’s 13 hectares at its core.
The micro dairy runs on a community membership basis: a share is the number of litres of raw milk, kefir or yogurt that people want every week for a year. Sign up here to support Stroud Micro Dairy and to place your order for raw milk, kefir and/or yogurt.
A volunteer at Stroud Micro Dairy, Ellie Price, has established her own business rearing pasture-fed chickens. Although plans to have them follow the cows at Oakbrook have not yet been realised for practical and logistical reasons, the chickens have been moving slowly (usually weekly) around the farm. This means that their enthusiastic scratching doesn’t damage the pasture too much, it actually helps to aerate the sward, and they can fertilise lots of the grassland. It is also great for the chickens to have new pasture regularly as there will always be new bugs to be found and they don’t get bored. This helps keep the high quality of the eggs and is also the best way to prevent parasitic worms.
Nesting boxes, a shed and a mobile chicken coop constructed on a caravan chassis are now in place alongside a movable sand bath and shelter to support the chickens’ health and wellbeing. Her first year has been highly rewarding, hard work and a great learning experience. The chickens will be replaced in October, after 18 months which is longer than the commercial laying flocks which are usually replaced within a year before moulting, when the drop in production means it is not financially viable to keep them. Ellie intends to explore the possibility of using less commercial, traditional breeds that will lay fewer eggs but lay for longer and could be sold for meat at end. Eggs are available via Stroud Community Agriculture and Stroud Micro Dairy.
Stroud Community Agriculture starter farm
A 4-acre market garden has been established under the umbrella of Stroud Community Agriculture (SCA). This allows new growers to develop their skills with the support of SCA. A polytunnel and small greenhouse have been erected to assist with the growing of Mediterranean vegetables and raising seedlings. Sylvie Planel and Kit (formerly Clare) Whitney were the first “starter farmers”.
The Bee Observatory in the Honey Bee Garden at Oakbrook has been designed by Christian Gruetzmacher as a meeting place for humans and honey bees. The project aims to encourage individuals and groups to discover and develop their unique relationship with bees. There are three self-built observation hives on display plus a national hive with surprise observation features, too.
Open for the first time this year, the garden hosts free open days for the community to watch, listen and contemplate honey bees in the hives. Visitors of all ages and backgrounds have been visiting on the open days with no need for any prior experience or protective clothing. Some spent quiet time contemplating the undisturbed bees, and others asked many questions or entered into conversations about honey bees, nature and humans in view of current challenges and opportunities. The Bee Observatory has also hosted a children’s party and offers birthday gift vouchers.
With some ups and downs it was possible to increase the stock from two colonies to five and all four hives on site are currently occupied. Working with natural rhythms of the bees and experimenting with alternative hive designs and management leaves a good part of the processes to the bees themselves. It will only be possible to assess the outcomes of this year’s natural and artificial swarming next year.
A small group of volunteers and supporters is forming bringing great prospects to the project’s development. Christian hopes to expand the (observation) beekeeping activities and other offers by 2020 and continues to be grateful for all financial donations made to the project so crucial at this early stage. For more information or to get in touch visit the Bee Observatory website.
Oakbrook Farm is currently in conversion to biodynamic organic, it will be certified as a Demeter-farm by the end of 2019 and is now fully organic.
The farm is located near the gates to Hawkwood College on Painswick Old Road, Gloucestershire GL6 7QW. The entrance is through a gate about 50 yards south of Hawkwood College’s entrance. Please feel free to walk on any of the marked public footpaths.
Oakbrook Farm Vision – now reality!
A beautiful 41-acre farm producing delicious biodynamic food, vegetables, fruit, beef and milk to supply local families and members.
Land is not a commodity, it is a commons to be cared for. Help take a practical step in building a more resilient Stroud food economy.