March 2018 at Wark Farm
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One of the main reasonsI gave up a perfectly sensible day job and career to farm at Wark was to have the freedom to experiment and try out new ideas for land management, particularly in farmland wildlife conservation. As a wildlife and countryside enthusiast ... re-phrase that, obsessive ... since my youngest years, huge amounts of my time and brain energy for over four decades has been spent in messing around in, participating in, reading and thinking about such things. While I enjoyed my years as a manager of other people lands, naturally they have their own objectives to meet and they don't always include freestyle wildlife encouragement. This farm is my place of work, it is my livelihood; I don't have another way of earning my daily bread. It's not just that though, it's also a place where I can risk my own time and money to try and make a piece of countryside sing, buzz, croak, rustle, hum and smell with an abundance of wildlife integrated into a commercial farm. Some I've won, some I've lost but overall I've made progress from the days of a largely bare rye grass and wire fenced farm. I'm not satisfied though; I could do better, this land could do better, for wildlife.
2018 sees the start of a new 5 year conservation plan for the farm. Much of it is re-enforcing and building on the work of the past 15 years, laying and managing hedgerows, protecting water margins, connecting up wildlife corridors around the farm and continuing the management of wildflower grasslands as well as the sensitive management of our silage grasslands amongst other things. The big project of the coming five years though is an all out attempt to turn our wetland/wet grassland area at the core of the farm into a breeding and feeding factory for farmland wading birds. These birds (lapwing, oyster catcher, redshank, curlew) are in trouble. Their numbers are dwindling. We are lucky, we have some still. Small numbers, some years breeding successfully, sometimes not. They are birds evocative of the spring and summer in the open landscapes of the uplands but have lost many of their previous haunts to forestry, agricultural drainage and intensification. Since the day I arrived here I wanted to see lapwing breed successfully on the farm. They do, but erratically and in small numbers, vulnerable to failure. 13 years ago we began turning what once was wet, had been drained, into land that was wet again for these birds. It has helped a bit, now it's time to raise the game and with the help of a group of advisers, in an RSPB endorsed project, do all we can to give the birds what they need to do their thing. Controlling water, installing sluices, creating multiple pools and splashes, reducing rush density, managing rush re-growth and grass levels. Then doing it again. And keeping at it for the next 5 years. And monitoring what happens. Would you like to be part of it? I'm putting in my time, money, land and enthusiasm - maybe you'd join me in helping fund some of the external costs so we can do all that has been recommended. If you would, we have a GoFundMe project set up with more information about and photos of the habitat, the species we are hoping to help and the work to be done so you can learn more and should you wish chip in. Be great if you do - everyone donating will be invited to a project open day once a year for a guided walk and talk about what's been done, happened and seen and what's to be done next including a thank you Wark Farm lunch to round things off, as well as regular email updates on happenings in the wetland. You can reach the project site here, please have a look and share around.
On to this months open days - we are open at the farm on Thursday 15th (10:30am - 4:30pm) for fridge browsing and order collection, we will be delivering on Friday 16th and will be at Banchory Farmers Market (9am - 1pm) on Saturday 17th. Building on our changes to the ordering system last month (changes to the form and including a copy of your order in acknowledgement emails) this month we will also be including a delivery note with orders which I hope will be useful as a reminder of what was ordered and noting any products which were out of stock or any substitutions we have made. I hope you will find this helpful, do let us know your experience and bear with us and keep us right through any glitches as we settle into the new system, thank you. This month we have our full range of four week hung Belted Galloway Beef, Hebridean lamb and our usual selection of pies and bacon. We don't have any chicken this month, many apologies for that, we hope to be up and running with a new supply of our slow grown free-ranging chicken again soon, sadly the fox intervened in our arrangements. We have an added product on the list that hasn't been there for a while - gammon steaks. I hope you enjoy their return this month.
As ever get in touch if you have any queries.Laurel