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CoFarm’s first family day out with Abbey People on June 3

The first event marking the ongoing partnership between CoFarm Cambridge and Abbey People is a family fun day on Thursday, June 3.

CoFarm’s success is due to its volunteers’ work ethic
CoFarm’s success is due to its volunteers’ work ethic

CoFarm Cambridge – which achieved charitable status this year – is a subsidiary of CoFarm Foundation, a start-up charity that aims to improve access to local, sustainably-grown food in the UK.

The family day is for visitors to learn about gardening and nature, with sessions from 9.30am-12.30pm and 1.30-4.30pm.

“This is an event for the whole family, with activities including gardening, woodland activities and a campfire cooking session,” says Jessica Rowbury, volunteer communications co-ordinator for the registered charity.

“There will be lots of things to do for all ages – this is a group activity, so bring along your household, close friends, family and support bubble together with your children.

“You’ll be able to see the progress at CoFarm Cambridge, and have a guided walk along Coldham’s Brook, our very own chalk stream.”

Nicky Shepard, CEO of Abbey People, said: “After working with CoFarm for the last year through our food hub, we are really excited to be now working together on a family event like this.

“Our Abbey links mean our organisations are closely aligned and we really hope this is the first of many opportunities to work closely with the CoFarm team.”

The family day out event is part of a showcase for the community farm’s crowdfunder which launched on May 21 – the eve of the annual International Day of Biodiversity.

The funds raised by CoFarm Cambridge’s new crowdfunding campaign will play a vital role in running the market garden and coinciding nature-enhancing projects. The goal is to help double its harvest in 2021 and significantly boost biodiversity in and around the seven-acre site.

The CoFarm team celebrating charitable status earlier this year. Picture: Keith Heppell
The CoFarm team celebrating charitable status earlier this year. Picture: Keith Heppell

Last year, more than 200 volunteers helped grow more than 4.5 tonnes of organically-produced vegetables for eight community food hubs in Cambridge, supporting vulnerable members of the community during the pandemic.

This year, the farm aims to at least double its harvest, while increasing habitats for birds, bees and other species by planting hedgerows, creating a heritage orchard and planting four-acres of wildflower meadows.

While most of the labour is carried out by local volunteers, huge amounts of supplies are needed to run a nature-friendly farm that does not use any pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilisers. Thousands of trees and seeds, fencing, gardening tools, natural fertilisers, tonnes of organic compost, nature-friendly pest control solutions and netting, fleecing and polytunnels are just a few of the supplies needed to double its harvest and boost biodiversity even further this year.

This month, volunteers at CoFarm Cambridge helped to sow more than 90 kilograms of wildflower seeds across four acres of the site, which will grow into an important habitat for insects, birds, small animals and other wildlife.

Seventy-six varieties of flowers and 13 types of grass will make up the meadows, ranging in colour, height and structure. These include: wild carrot, yarrow, ragged robin, oxeye daisy, musk mallow, lady’s bedstraw, yellow rattle and birds foot trefoil.

Wildflower meadows are one of the rarest habitats in the UK, which have declined by 97 per cent since the 1930s, as a result of changes to farming methods and increasing land development. Such meadows provide shelter and food for bees, other wild pollinators and insects such as butterflies, moths and dragonflies, along with animals that eat insects, such as birds, hedgehogs and bats.

CoFarm seeds May 2021 (47354597)
CoFarm seeds May 2021 (47354597)

In addition to being a biodiversity hotspot, planting meadows near food crops helps to retain water in the soil. And, they provide a beautiful, peaceful environment for local residents to enjoy and immerse themselves in nature.

The wildflower seeds were purchased at a discounted rate from Meadow Mania. The creation of the heritage orchard and wildflower meadows was supported by the Cambridge Water PEBBLE Fund and by Cambridge City Council. Melcourt Industries donated sixty 45 litre bags of organic compost, and the Cambridge Canopy Project donated 97 additional fruit trees. The city council also assisted with preparation of the soil using a tractor and rotavator, prior to seed broadcasting.

Amey has so far donated 64 tonnes of PAS 100 organic soil improver from their Waterbeach Waste Management Park this year and last year.

Cambridge-based technology company Arm has provided financial support in 2020 and 2021, which has paid for rabbit-proof fencing around the market garden and expert supervision from CoFarm Cambridge’s horticultural leads, Peter Wrapson and Dominic Walsh.

The species-rich hedgerow was made possible thanks to a donation of trees from TCV – The Conservation Volunteers, as part of its ‘I Dig Trees’ programme with Ovo Energy, and The Woodland Trust, through its PlanTree initiative with Sofology.

Visit Abbey People’s website for details of the family day out, or contribute to the fundraiser here.

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