Hey! We're Sinead & Adam. Two city kids from London, going rural as we embark on our new journey with Aweside Farm and set out to build an ecological and regenerative farm that builds and nurtures nature whilst combating carbon through extensive tree planting.
We're moving to a bare 4.4 acre field as of one of the Ecological Land Cooperatives Land Stewards. This field here...
Pretty empty right...Well, not for long with your help!
Aweside Farm & Combating Carbon
We'll be producing a range of edible flowers, cut flowers, specialty veg and fruit. Our focus has been one on celebrating the diversity and variety that's within nature, and building that lost diversity back up again through our growing. We used to run a small project in London, Audacious Veg, and there we started developing our flower and tree led approach to growing and producing a wide range of plants to provide biodiversity and our customers plenty to choose from.
With Aweside Farm we're scaling up what we learnt at Audacious Veg and the amazing environment that took decades to build, and setting out to do it ourselves from scratch, through regenerating this patch of land.
We're taking a fresh new approach to farming as we've seen first hand the issues arising from the status quo and conventional practices and it's time for change.
Farming is responsible for 9% of the UKs national greenhouse gas emissions and the decisions made by farmers can have a large impact on what our carbon footprint looks like. We're doing a number of things to limit our contribution to adding more carbon to the atmosphere and looking at how we can take it out. Our new ventures means we're committed to building on the work we did with our previous project and scaling up our efforts to:
- Capture carbon through extensive tree planting in hedgerows, woodlands and orchards
- Build up soil carbon, an often overlooked carbon sink
- Farming using organic principles and going beyond that
- No dig beds. By minimising the disturbance of the soil, we can keep carbon in the soil and not leaching it out into the atmosphere
- Using hand tools and manual tools only and not using fuel guzzling tractors
- Using compostable packaging and offering a returns scheme for us to compost packaging used. Limiting the use of packaging as a whole through our novel approaches to harvesting and deliveries
- Working towards the eventual purchase of an electric vehicle for deliveries
- Having solar powered energy for farm and domestic use
2020 for 2020
Trees are an incredible resource for so many reasons, from habitat creation, to carbon storage, to providing food. Yet trees are often overlooked in farming systems for a number of reasons; the most common reason for not planting trees globally? Lack of motivation (CIFOR).
Well, we've got plenty of motivation and we've got plans to plant thousands of trees on our new patch of land over the coming years. And to mark the turn of the decade and to celebrate 2020 and our new venture, we're setting out to plant 2020 trees in the coming year. This is what we have planned:
- Woodland comprising of 400+ woodland trees made up of silver birches, rowan, English oak, wild cherry, field maple and grey willows
- Hedgerows extending 500m comprising of 2000+ trees made up of hawthorns, dogwoods, field maples, hazels, crab apples, dog roses, spindles and guelders rose
- Orchard in the market garden comprising of 80 semi dwarf fruit trees comprising of apple, cherry and plum trees
- Fruit trees within the open field blocks of wildflowers and grasses
- Living fences grown with willow which will act as wind breaks and shade shelters
We have a monumental task on our hands and that's why we need your help. For the last year we've worked tirelessly to secure this patch of land and your help will give us a helping hand in getting things off the ground!
Why so many trees?
Trees will form a vital part of our growing techniques on our farm. We'll be using agroforestry methods as a way to build up resilience and diversity into the land.
Flood Risk Alleviation
Currently, this flat open space hosts just grasses, and this Autumn has been incredibly wet and prone to extreme rainfalls, which has resulted in some serious flooding and waterlogging. And no wonder, there's nothing here to help utilise that water. In the few weeks we've resided here, we haven't been able to carry out much work so far and this is an insight into what the future could look like on this land if we don't make some key changes to how this land is managed under us.
Using natural flood management techniques through tree restoration and landscape features we'll be able to promote greater water use by having the trees remove water. Trees remove water in a number of ways, through the leaves slowing down the rate of water reaching the ground, to the roots create passages in the soil for water to penetrate into the ground deeper. All in all, more trees means we can put less pressure on the drainage systems by absorbing run-off, which is good news for the road into and alongside us, as less water will run off this field and into the roads.
Reinforcing Soil & Reducing Soil Erosion
Trees help with reducing soil erosion, increasing soil fertility and help with soil moisture. Tree roots create channels into the soil opening them up, but also act as a net stopping them washing away, which in a spot prone to flooding is a real risk.
This field has long been under conventional arable agriculture and as a heavy clay soil theres a huge amount of space beneath our feet not being utilised. Opening up these areas through using tree and plant roots and their varying depths can help us utilise more beneath our feet an allows us to start our work on carbon storage within the soil itself.
On our last patch of land, we were graced with birds, insects, amphibians, you name it. There was so much variety in terms of plants and trees that everything had a home. We were really fortunate in that we really didn't have to do much when it came to 'pest' management, as there was a natural balance keeping thing in tandem. Using chemicals is an absolute no for us, and that means we need to create that balance naturally.
Trees allow us to create a habitats for a range of animals, birds and insects that are currently not supported on this open patch of land. Biodiversity is being lost at an unprecedented rate and if we're going to try and reverse that, then we need to create places where wildlife can thrive, and Aweside Farm will become one of those places.
Hedgerows need to be managed and with sensitive management through laying hedges and coppicing we'll be able to create woodchip compost which will form a key part in our soil carbon restoration work. Our principals for growing are based on feeding the soil, and in so, using coppiced material we can put the carbon from trees into the soil and lock it up in the ground, whilst also feeding the soil life too.
Tree planting will take place between Jan-March and Nov - Dec 2020.
The part you play
We've put everything we have into securing the patch of land, we've worked endless hours and juggled countless jobs as well as running our small farm in London to raise the funds we need to put down a deposit for this land and the initial infrastructure costs.
Our plans for planting trees are extensive and expensive, with your help we can get on with doing this important work sooner than if we wait it out a few years til we're able to bring in the income through our produce sales. We see trees as the most important part of our farm, they're the life and soul of what we're setting out to create and play such an important role not only for our farm and our business, but for the wider environment through carbon storage to helping biodiversity thrive once again.
Help us undo the damage that has been created through our environmental negligence and help restore this open field into an ecological haven.
And remember, this patch of land is as much our home as it is yours. We want this place to become a place for people to learn, enjoy and connect with nature and other people too. So our door is always open for a visit and we'll be hosting a range of events throughout 2020, so stay tuned!
With big love, Sinead & Adam.