Borehole!

We’re very please to have had a borehole installed at the farm. A borehole is basically a narrow well that pumps water out of the ground for irrigating our crops.

Until now we’ve relied on mains water which costs a lot when watering on our scale, especially as we’re in the driest part of the country. 

We were confident that the contractors would find water as the farm sits on sand and gravel on top of London clay which provides good conditions for a shallow borehole. They drilled 7 meters down to the London clay and lined the hole with a permeable pipe which allows the water to flow in as we pump it out.

We couldn’t be sure of what the supply would be like until the pump was installed but we were not disappointed. We have a consistent supply of 45 litres per minute. That’s 2.7 cubic metres per hour which is plenty for our needs.

We can now water twice as much as before which is helped by installing a wider pipe across the farm to insure that we don’t loose pressure along the way. Best of all the water is free! (once we have paid our loan off!)

Happy Birthday Bennison Farm!

This year we’re celebrating our 10th Anniversary. It been quite a journey to get here, with plenty of sweat and a few tears along the way!

We arrived at Bennison Farm in February 2012 with no money but some experience and fortunately plenty of local support for the venture. We borrowed a small amount from family and were very fortunate to be given an old tractor from a farm where I used to work. We scraped through our first year with poor soil giving mixed results. Our fantastically committed members supported us through a lean Winter but as we invested in the soil and our yields grew, so did our membership.

In August we will have been packing veg bags for 10 years! We’re very proud to have provided veg shares to our members every week since we started and apart from the first winter all produce has been grown on the farm. We’re also delighted to have a few members who have been with us for the whole time through thick and thin!

Community Supported Agriculture really works for us. The support and help of our members has been critical to getting the scheme off the ground and keeping it running and our thanks go out to our Steering Group for playing a key role this. It makes a real difference having a steady and predictable outlet for our produce. When times are good we share the bounty and when times are hard it’s a comfort knowing that we have committed members who will stay the course. A great many thanks to the members, staff, volunteers and family who have supported us over the years. We couldn’t have done this without you!

On the Saturday July 30th Bennison Farm’s 10th Birthday Party so do come and join us from 3pm for fun, food and live music whilst we step back from our work and celebrate 10 year of providing fresh, local Organic veg!

Book here!

Recipes and Facts – Radish

Radishes are members of the Brassicaceae (mustard or cabbage) family. The root is related to kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and horseradish, among others.

Radishes are a great low-cal snack; one cup of sliced radishes has only 19 calories.

Recipes

Gzik – Polish Cheese on Toast

Gzik – Polish Cheese on Toast – From Farm Member Nicola

  • 150g Twarog (polish soft cheese) – can be substituted with a pot of cottage cheese
  • 3 tablespoons of sour cream – can be substituted with crème fraiche/Greek yoghurt
  • 1-2 bunches of radishes diced into cubes- quantity depends on what you get in your veg bag!
  • 1 bunch of chives
  • Salt and pepper
  • Slices of soured gherkins put on top (optional)
  • Slices of bread – toasted or fresh e.g. sourdough.  We toast slices of ‘Romanian bread’ from Colchester’s Blackberry bakery

Mix soft cheese with sour cream to get a smoother, less lumpy consistency.
Add in radishes, chives, salt and pepper

Spread mixture on toast
Add slices of soured gherkins on top

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Recipes and Facts – Patty Pan

Patty pan squash, also known as scallop squash, is a variety of summer squashes originated from Mexico.

Patty pan can be used in a variety of ways, from stuffed, grilled, roasted, and even raw. Trim the stem end before eating. Tender pattypan can be used with the skin left on. The fruit can be cut into small cubes or wedges before cooking.

Recipes

Patty Pan Squash and Chickpea Tikka Masala

Patty Pan Squash and Chickpea Tikka Masala – Slavic Vegan website

  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 350g pattypan squash, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 inch fresh ginger, finely minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 tsp hot paprika
  • salt to taste
  • splash of oil

For Tikka Masala Sauce

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 inch fresh ginger, chopped
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp Garam Masala
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp hot paprika
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground fenugreek leaves
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • oil for cooking
  • fresh coriander for garnish

Preheat oven to 200°c.

In a mixing bowl toss together cooked chickpeas and pattypan squash with minced ginger, garlic, hot paprika, salt and oil. Transfer onto a lined baking tray and separate squash from chickpeas.

Bake for 20 minutes. Stir the chickpeas and squash halfway to prevent it from burning.

Meanwhile make the sauce by heating oil in a shallow pan over medium heat. Sauté onion until translucent. Add garlic and ginger and stir for a minute. Then add Garam Masala, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and hot paprika. Cook until spices release their flavors and add tomatoes. Let it simmer for 5 minutes.

Transfer everything into a blender followed by cashews, turmeric powder and ground fenugreek leaves. Blend until smooth and creamy.

Pour the sauce back into the pan, dilute with some water if desired and bring to simmer. Throw in baked chickpeas and pattypan squash. Season with salt and cook for few minutes just to combine all the flavors together.

Serve over rice or quinoa and garnish with fresh coriander.

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Food miles……..going the distance.

By Farm Member Michelle Worn


I said I would look into food miles for the Spring edition of Bennison’s newsletter, specifically the
journey of a green bean, but alas all is not as it may first appear.

Having read various articles I can conclude the picture is hazy and that food miles cannot be interpreted without the consideration of other vital factors such as farm practices (non-organic vs organic), employment, processing, packaging, storage and transport! Looking at food miles in isolation gives a false impression.

For instance, unsurprisingly, reports show that it is less environmentally friendly to grow out of season tomatoes in Britain under glass than it is to import tomatoes from Spain. The energy needed to heat glasshouses in Britain during the colder months to ripen tomatoes uses significantly more energy than transporting them from Spain where the warmer climate does the job.

So, eating seasonally is directly tied into food miles too. Interestingly, British apples harvested in September and October are then cold stored which, for a while, still outweighs carbon emissions from flown in apples, but by August, the lines cross. The amount of energy required to keep them fresh will then overtake the carbon cost of shipping apples in from New Zealand. Therefore, in July and August it is argued that is better to buy apples from New Zealand.

It is, like most things, a balancing act and very much personal choice and circumstance driven but regardless, it is no doubt beneficial to take stock.


As a family of 3, writing this article has again made me consider how we do things versus how I want
to do things. My grandad had an allotment in his back garden – I still have his book of plot notes –
and the idea of growing what you need, in sync with your local seasonality and hence reducing all
unnecessary outputs sits the most comfortably. However, I do appreciate that space, health, time
and ‘the rest of life’ makes this harder to become a reality.

This is where supporting local, organic veg schemes such as Bennison Farm really helps address these issues. The farm supports the lives of local people and the vegetables are grown and sown organically, processed by hand, stored in an old truck body, packaged (only where necessary and then mainly in recyclable materials), and finally driven no more than 8 miles from the farm for collection. Wondering about the mileage of that green bean? Most coming from Kenya, it’s 4237 miles!


Articles I used and / or found interesting:
http://www.foodmiles.com/results.cfm
https://www.oddizzi.com/teachers/explore-the-world/food-and-farming/food-miles/
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2008/mar/23/food.ethicalliving
https://www.eta.co.uk/environmental-info/food-miles/

Recipes –

Broad bean and bacon risotto from Olive magazine

1½l chicken or vegetable stock – if you cook your veg in water freeze it for risottos

400g broad beans Or what you have! [they tell you to skin them but see above]

50g butter

1 onion , finely chopped

8 rashers bacon , about 200g , finely sliced

1 garlic clove , crushed

300g risotto rice

1 glass white wine

pecorino shaved or grated, to serve

Heat the stock in a pan and add the broad beans, cook for 3 minutes then scoop them out.

Melt a large knob of butter in a large pan and fry the onion and bacon for about 5 minutes until the onion is tender, add the garlic and cook for a minute. Stir in the rice, coating every grain in butter. Add the wine and stir until it has been absorbed, then add the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring until it has been absorbed but so that the risotto is still wet enough to just hold its shape. Season. Stir in another knob of butter and half of the broad beans.

Spoon the risotto into bowls and top with more broad beans and pecorino.

Summer social and missing our tractor!

We had an enjoyable day at the summer social. A keen team of workers weeded the bulk of our parsnip crop which was very much in need of it. The children ran wild in our social area enjoying an impromptu obstacle course and some games organised by Wivenhoe Woodcraft Folk. We barbecued, shared food listened to music and toasted marshmallows on the fire. Much fun was had by all and it’s a very big thank you to the volunteers who made it all happen.

Meanwhile we are on tenterhooks at the farm waiting for our tractor to be fixed. We have a back log of very hungry looking brassica plants waiting to be planted out and what’s more the contractors are unable to come and plough for us as they are too busy! We will get the plants in by hook or by crook but it’s going to be a frantic few weeks as we’re close the end of the window for getting these plants in on time. Wish us luck!!!

Loving the rain.

We love the rain and consider ourselves lucky when we get it as we’re growing in the driest part of the country. The plants love it and so do the weeds but at least it makes them easier to pull out. We’ll be weeding carrots and onions this week and planting brussles sprouts (a bit late) if we can get the tractor (which is currently out of action) fixed. We’re very glad of the new potatoes. They had to be pulled by hand as we normally used a machine behind the tractor. The carrots are delicious and we have broad bean aplenty so nice heavy bags for the time being!

The planting has begun

All land has now been ploughed and power harrowed ready for planting. We’ve planted beetroot, spinach and chard and are planting onions this week and potatoes too if we have time. We also have a delivery of plants due on Friday which we hope to plant next week – cabbages, broccoli, lettuce, pak choi, chinese cabbage, fennel, parsley and for the first time – celery. It’s a busy time but the weather has been on our side so far and we are on track. A drop of rain once we get things planted would be welcome.

We have already planted the polytunnels with fennel, lettuce, spring cabbage, pak choi, chinese cabbage and onions  and have sown carrots. The tunnels are invaluable at this time of year to get things off to a head start and should produce crops a month ahead of those in the field.