Trainee Position 2019 Open for Applicants

Trainee Position at Cae Tan CSA 2019

Now Open for applications

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Cae Tan community supported agriculture is based on the Gower Peninsula, south Wales. Please look at our website & watch the 9 minute film there as it explains our work in detail. www.caetancsa.org

We are seeking a hard working person to join our team for the 2019 season. Period from April 1st to 31st October 2018.

 

What we can offer you

  • Accommodation near to the field & shared with a European Volunteer
  • £50 per week living expenses
  • As much fresh veg as you can eat
  • Support in your work with us to learn the ropes of how to grow a CSA

 

Work will involve

  • Day to day sowing, planting, weeding, harvesting, packing organic / biodynamic produce
  • Working alongside staff & volunteers
  • Occasional schools & youth project work
  • 4 days per week 9 – 5 with occasional weekend watering
  • The opportunity to learn about machinery use if this interests you

 

What we would like from you

  • Motivation to learn about sustainable growing & community development
  • Willingness to work hard in all weathers
  • Adaptability & willingness to work & get along with a lot of different people

 

To apply for this position please

  1. Send us your CV
  2. Answer the following questions;
    1. Why do you want this position?
    2. What are your long-term goals in sustainable farming?
    3. What relevant experiences & aspects of your character will you bring with you

CLOSING DATE FOR APPLICATIONS – 9th Dec 2018

Please send these by email to tom@caetancsa.org

If you want to ask anything just give me a call 07791696848

We will invite those selected in January to come for an interview, but if you want to come & visit in the meantime that would be great.

Cheers, Tom

Farm Hack & CSA Gathering Cymru

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A couple of weekends back a few of us travelled up to Tyddyn Teg, a CSA based in Snowdonia, where we spent the weekend sharing ideas on small scale growing with farmers from other CSA’s & organic farms.

The weekend had two key focus groups. ‘The Wales CSA Network’ & ‘Farm Hack’. The CSA network come together in order to share best practice & help support new CSA’s to get set up in Wales. Cae Tan ran a workshop on setting up a CSA. Other workshops included a growers round table, farm machinery best practice & seed saving.

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There were some interesting technical workshops including how to build a weeding robot, creating your own hand scale machinery using old bikes & random bits of junk, timber framing & working with horses.

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The best part of these gatherings for me are the informal chats you have with so many growers & farmers from different projects. The farm tour always generates alot of really interesting discussions as we generally all have similar seasonal challenges.

Next month we head back into Snowdonia to join the Landworkers Alliance AGM for more information sharing & to push forward political agenda’s for sustainable farming in the UK.

 

Harvest Party Thankyou’s

A huge thankyou to everyone involved in organising & making the harvest party happen a couple of weeks back. (Especially Lizzy…)

We raised a staggering £3000!!

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This will go towards the construction of a small barn on the new site for storage of veg, tools, packing space etc.

Thanks to the following for your kind donations..

Raflle Prizes
Homemade breakfast hamper (Lara)
Hoogah Pizza
Dr Organics Gift Set
Crumbs voucher
Clipper Gift Set
Arthur Neave cafe voucher
Bottle of red wine from someone really nice
La Doce Vita voucher – Tony & Sarah O’Kane
Vegan Shea Butter – Bobinogs Gonzales!
Auction Promises
Gower Heritage Centre Free entry to cider festival
Artisan breadmaking with Chendore
Gower Heritage Centre Charette cinema screening
Pilates lesson – Mariana
Chiropratic session at Gower Chiropractic Centre – Becky
Sue Kent Foot massage
Picnic hamper – Abbi & Rhys
Crochet lesson
Spin round Gower in Triumph pi – Lizzy & Tim
Swans v QPR football tickets from someone fantastic
Emma Bissonat Lino cuts
Tai Chi class with Abbi’s dad
Neck and back massage with Sue Kent
2 nights in cosy cabin in sandy lane – Tom & Pasacle
Gower SUP 2 hour lesson
Canoeing with Ant
Private gig with Goeff
Spanish lessons with Isabel
landladies meal – Laura & the land ladies
Gower pleasure flight with Alex

Biodynamic Practice at Cae Tan

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Its been a while since I wrote a post. I went away on holiday in August & got out of the loop, but as autumn settles on us I thought I’d write about one of the biodynamic practices we use on the fields.

Biodynamic agriculture originates from a series of lectures that Rudolph Steiner gave to a group of farmers in Silesia in 1924.

Biodynamic translates as ‘bio’ life, ‘dynamic’ force. So its Life Force Agriculture. This life force is exhibited in our soil, our crops, our animals, the people who work the land & those who eat what comes from the land. Its a constant work, learning process & juggling act on all sorts of levels to find the right balance to allow these elements to thrive.

My introduction to biodynamic agriculture was as a trainee at the age of 21 in Jerpoint Camphill Community in Southern Ireland. The community worked on a 1 acre garden & small farm to produce veg, meat, milk & eggs for its community of people with learning disabilities (the lads) & an international crew of volunteers. It was a really rich period in my life & provided a solid foundation to everything I’ve been involved in since.

Our focus was in equal measures to work with and care for the land in a mindful sense and to provide meaningful & satisfying work for the ‘lads’.

I had the good fortune to have a one to one apprenticeship with a biodynamic grower & whilst at Jerpoint myself & my cousin put together a biodynamic training course, inviting some of the leading biodynamic bods from around Ireland to come & share their knowledge with us.

To alot of people I find that the practice of biodynamics is hard to grasp. Many of the writings are quite intellectual & the concepts unfamiliar. People think its just a bit weird. I think this depends on the context you meet it in.

Personally, I have found it a really exciting & mind opening journey which allows me to have a different view of the crops we grow, the landscape around us & how we interact with one another in this environment.

To give you an idea of what its about, I’ll try to concisely get across one of the key practices we carry out.

The ‘horn manure preparation’ or ‘500 preparation’ is a fertility building treatment that we apply to the land in spring, summer or autumn.

Biodynamics very basically follows two key motions of inward movement & outward movement. This can be reflected in the in breath & out breath; the inward workings of the soil in the depths of winter & the outward exuberance of flowers, fruit & insects in the height of summer; our own birth & death & ultimately the birth & death of a planet.

I may have lost you already……

Its basically about working with a natural flow that exists within nature. Sounds like some kind of hippy thing? I find it a pleasure to work with as it literally allows you to contemplate the stars & wider universe whilst you’ve got your hands in the soil or even a bucket of diluted cow shit!

Now you’ll probably find this a bit out there!

The horn manure preparation is made by filling cow horns with cow manure & burying them in the soil for the winter period. They are then dug up in spring, mixed in water & applied to the land to increase biological activity, soil fertility & life force.

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The basic idea is that the cow manure, from a lactating cow is super rich in flora & fauna, having travelled a huge distance through the cows intestines. The cow is also seen as a very earthy land aware creature. Steiner perceived the cow to be more conscious in its 4 stomachs than in its head. If you hang out with a grazing cow, have a look at its glazed over eyes & you can just imagine how theres not any great thoughts going through its head, but all the action is happening in its 4 stomachs.

Whilst its belly is processing the fodder it eats, the cow is literally processing the land it stands on, churning over, digesting it & transforming it into a biologically rich substance. Cow Poo!

This process is directly linked to the cows bloodstream. Blood flowing around its bellies is also flowing up through the tips of the cows horns & back around the rest of its body.

In this sense the cow horns are seen as a cap holding the life force of the cow in as in digests and transforms what it eats. So the cow horns do the same job over winter whilst the manure is buried in the ground.

Whereas this process was happening inside one cow, once the horn is buried, the earth is seen to act like the belly of the cow. In autumn & winter, the outward surging summer forces of warmth, growth, smell, taste, colour all return to the earth for winter. Many of these qualities are trapped in the crops that we store for winter foods.

So through the winter period, this rich substance is composted & digested in the belly of the earth, taking on new qualities some of which can be both measured & some not.

So twice this year at Webbsfield & once at Furzehill, myself and others took some of this composted horn manure, mixed it in water & spread it on the fields to boost life force in the soil, in our crops & hopefully in us!

I won’t go into the method of mixing & applying the horn manure just now as this is another story.

If this is something you’d like to learn more about, then let me know & I’ll tell you when we’re making an application next spring.

Ecological Land Co-op AGM Hosted at Cae Tan

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Last weekend we hosted the AGM of the Ecological Land Co-op.

The AGM was attended by about 50 people from across the UK. These included investors, employees & tenants of other ELC land. ecologicalland.coop

Besides the usual AGM business, there were presentations from some of the ELC’s tenants at the Greenham Reach site. This gave a real practical insight to the end results of ELC’s work. Finding land, finding investors to buy the land, finding people to work the land in small scale sustainable agricultural businesses & supporting these people to get established.

It’s a really inspiring model & Cae Tan are really pleased to be developing projects with ELC.

Besides the AGM Rhys & Abbi cooked us some amazing feasts, we toured both sites & alot of people managed a trip or 2 to the beach, some at midnight to swim in the phosphorescence.

Building links with Southern India

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A few days ago we had the pleasure of hosting Nimmi from Tamil Nadu in Southern India. She is involved with an organisation called The Earth Trust. www.earthtrustnilgiris.org

Founded by a lady from the UK, The Earth Trust currently supports around 50 small scale organic & biodynamic producers in Tamil Nadu. The organisation finds markets for produce & guarantees a good price to the farmer. They also offer training in organic & biodynamic farming. This offers a route out for many small scale Indian farmers who are trapped in contracts with multi nationals. The farmers become reliant on buying their seed & chemicals each year from the multinationals, leading to soil degradation, environmental damage & a loss of ownership over what they grow & how they choose to farm.

Nimmi came for the afternoon and enjoyed herself so much, she cancelled her trip to Cardiff the following day, spent the evening on the beach with us, stayed overnight & spent another day harvesting & meeting members & volunteers at Cae Tan.

Nimmi told us some great stories about the Nilgiri Hills. They have a diverse climatic range, growing coffee & pepper in the lower lands & more UK type veg in the higher hills. Whilst we contend with slugs & snails, they have herds of bison, troops of monkeys & families of wild boar rampaging through their gardens.

We discussed how we may link to The Earth Trust, possibly through a youth programme linking to children involved at Cae Tan to young people in their communities. We’ll likely make a visit there to see how we can get involved!!

Early July Crop Report

Things are calming down in terms of ground preparation, sowing and planting. the majority of this years crops are in the ground & putting down roots in search of moisture!

Its been an unusual season….again….Winter stretched into mid May. This left us unable to prepare the ground for planting until late May. It also meant that the early crops such as the first salads, that we did manage to get in didn’t do so well, as they thought it was still January.

Pace of work wise, personally I feel like I go from walking pace in February to a gentle jog in March. This turns into a run in early April & becomes a sprint by late April. I’m then running full pelt throughout May & June until the start of July. This year, that run was done in the full heat. I feel like I don’t really get a chance to look at the crops. If I’m not at the field or working with a school group, I’m lying down in the shade or getting in the sea to cool off. So it was a pleasant surprise to walk around this weekend and see how everything is establishing.

So starting at Furzehill…..

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The maincrop potatoes are looking great. Its the first time we have grown a maincrop. We have had almost no rain since they were planted, but I think due to the incredibly wet winter & late ploughing, followed by deep planting & ridging they have retained enough moisture to get well established. We’ll need a good few downpours between now & the end of August though. If not, then it’ll be a winter of small potatoes…

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The courgettes are starting to deliver their goods. Surprisingly, considering again the lack of rain. Alongside them we have a bumper crop of winter squash which are also now settling in. They have a rough start, being hit by strong winds for three days following planting & then no rain. Again, assuming we get some moisture this summer we are growing squash for our membership & enough squash to feed 2500 people at an arts event in September with squash soup.

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The brassicas are happy under their cover. It seems to have done a good job of keeping in the moisture too. The brassicas are quick to get their roots down so establish easily. Another bonus of the dry weather is the lack of weed seed germination. We haven’t yet had to weed the brassicas & they’re now covering the surface completely.

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We’ve gotten right on top of salad sowing now. Having filled most spaces at Webbsfield, we’re filling in gaps at Furzehill with a plentiful salad supply. They seem really delicate getting planted into the open dry ground here and sometimes need 2 waterings, but they’re doing great. And not a ******* slug for a mile!

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Our 9000 leeks have given me a bit of stress. This year we started them in the tunnel in a seed bed which worked perfectly. I was hoping for some overcast or damp weather to transplant them, but realising it wasn’t going to happen, we moved them to Furzehill before the heat got to them in the tunnel. They looked pretty bedraggled for the first 2 weeks, having been topped & tailed & planted into a desert. We’ve watered them every week which takes about half a day & now they seem pretty pert & lively. So as they mature, hopefully they won’t be too scarred by their early experiences.

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The onions have been pretty hassle free. Both the sets & the seeded modules have established well. Just took one monotonous hand weed as due to our attention falling elsewhere we didn’t get to weed these until the last minute. We should have our most plentiful onion supply yet.

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The roots have been a real stress……but having got through this weekend I’ve seen the light at the end of the tunnel & they’re finally all germinating. Thanks largely to this new bit of kit, an irrigation pipe which waters our 80m bed with a fine mist keeping the surface damp, but needing moving every couple of hours.

The parsnips I got in a bit earlier, so they benefitted from a downpour the day after sowing & have germinated fairly well. The carrots went in a bit later & have sat doing nothing for close to a month in the unrelenting heat. But with consistent pipe moving 7 days a week we’ve gotten there!

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At the far end we are still planting beetroot & sweetcorn. These are doing well. The sweetcorn is happy enough, although I know as everything else it is in need of a downpour.

We’ve also planted a whole load of fennel, celery & celeriac at the other field, but next year they will slot in this end of the rotation at Furzehill.

Francesca is also at Furzehill & her salads are booming with a plentiful water supply, a consistent & attentive gardeners shadow. (Check out the recent blog on Francesca’s salads).

And whats happening at Webbsfield….

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Seedlings for both the fields are started here. Its been great weather for consistent germination & quick growth in trays. The hassle has been getting here to water twice a day at weekends. I love to come early & water but dragging yourself away from the beach on a Sunday evening its less inviting. There’s generally long periods where we don’t have to water seedlings once they’re out doors, but this season has been non stop. I have to give a massive thankyou to Peter & Marjon who came to camp & volunteer with us from London. They took over watering duties for most of 10 days which was a real pleasure not to have to think about it. They also got plenty of beach time in too.

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The tomatoes are booming. They were sown earlier this year & we’ve had not stop sun & good irrigation, but they’re still waiting until this week to be ripe. We are expecting a bumper crop.

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We’ve been keeping the tunnels fully ventilated as we noticed some of the cucumbers tasting bitter. We assume its heat stress. We definitely feel heat stress when we’re side shooting tomatoes in there.

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Aubergines are establishing well and starting to form fruit.

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We staggered the cucumber sowing as we had an attack of aphids early on so re-sowed half the crop. We’re already taking about 150 cucumbers a week from half the crop, so be prepared for an onslaught of cucumbers! Hopefully not bitter ones.

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The sweet peppers are also starting to fruit. We’ve had an issue with waterlogging where run off from irrigation soaks the bottom corner of this tunnel. We have replanted & then disconnected the irrigation at the lower end of each row so that these crops will only be watered by run off from other crops. We’ll see how they settle in.

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Runner beans coming nicely in the partial shade between 2 tunnels.

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The french beans are usually much happier in the tunnel, but this year not. They aren’t producing much. Just too bloody hot for them in there.

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A salad seed crop we’re growing for real seeds. Looks lusciously healthy. Basil is loving this tunnel heat.

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Globe artichoke numbers massively down on last year. As are rhubarb &  strawberries. I’m assuming they missing the moisture.

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We’ve had 5 weeks pickings from the chard but its feeling the heat & starting to bolt. Its done us well.

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Summer brassica patch of broccoli, kale, cabbage doing ok. Summer cauli decided it was too dry & have not moved since planting.

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Dwarf french beans took a bit of re-sowing due to early slug losses, but they’re coming & should do well if they can mine enough moisture from Webbsfield.

 

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The first sowings of pea & mangetout have done really well, but the successional sowings have failed due to lack of moisture & pigeons. Next year we will pre soak peas & cover the bed whilst they germinate to hold moisture & keep out the birds.

We had some good early harvests of broad beans too. These were from both the over wintered outdoors & the early tunnel crops. The next lot are about to bean up, so more expect them in the coming week or 2. We usually start to loose our broad bean crop to black spot by July due to rain, but not this year….at least so far. This means we may still get the last sowing flowering & producing in August.

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Early spuds at Webbsfield have been pretty rubbish. Planted late as it was so cold & wet, then as they established it totally dried out. The maincrop planted a few weeks later at Furzehill have done better. I assume this is due to the ploughed in turf holding mositure.

So overall it looks to be a plentiful season, assuming we get some rain between now & September. If we don’t, then I expect that crop bulk will be down, but hopefully not drastically.

A massive thanks to Lizzy, Abbi & Isabel who have worked through the unrelenting heat to get all this stuff sown, planted, weeded, harvested…Also a massive thanks to all our volunteers. We couldn’t do this without you.

Lets hope we get a wet summer once the kids finish school! (Or maybe just rain at night….)

 

 

Francesca’s Salads

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Francesca was a trainee with us in 2017. Whilst with us she decided that she’d like to pursue growing salads and greens for local businesses and markets.

This fitted well with Cae Tan’s aims to help establish new growers and build local produce availability. Francesca is an employee of Cae Tan, but is working within here own budget that is separate from that of our membership income.

Cae Tan as an organisation are supporting her by accessing grants for materials & her time, offering support & advice & offering free access to the land & a polytunnel at Furzehill whilst she gets established.

Thanks to the Naturesave Trust for funding materials.

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Francesca has done an amazing job of setting up her growing area, doing some of her own fundraising & building contacts with local businesses. She managed this whilst holding down a near full time job at a cafe in Gowerton & cycling back & forth between Waunarlwydd & Lunnon to weed, sow, plant & water at all hours!

She’s also been learning to drive between planting, so that she can streamline delivery of her produce.

A month of Francesca’s time has been paid for with funds from last years harvest party. We are also awaiting a grant from NRW which if successful will give her a part time wage for the coming months to support the establishment of her enterprise.

The funds from NRW……if we get them…..Will also support another new producer to set up a sustainable farming scheme in 2019. This may be as part of Cae Tan or in some kind of partnership with us.

We’re really pleased that Francesca has joined Cae Tan as a board member & will be one of Gower’s future growers helping to shape our development as we move forwards.

Note to members….you may be wondering…… wheres our salads!! They have been a bit sporadic the last month but they’re on the way…..Whilst Francesca is concentrating on this one crop, we are establishing about 30 different crops on 6 acres. So volunteer planters are still very much in demand!!

New Polytunnel at Furzehill

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The pictures are in reverse order…..

A massive thankyou to Neil Barry at Swansea Community Green Spaces Project. Also to Dai who donated a tunnel frame to us from the site next door to the Wildflower Cafe.

A series of fortunate co-incidences led to us getting a tunnel in place at Furzehill for Francesca to set up this autumn with her salads & greens.

A couple of months ago one of our volunteers said a friend of hers (Dai) was in the process of selling land at the wildflower cafe near Swansea airport and would possibly let us have a polytunnel frame that needed moving. She rang Dai who happened to be passing & called in 10 minutes later. The tunnel frame was ours when we had time to take it down!

A few weeks later we had an email from Neil Barry of Swansea Community Green Spaces Project. They had £2000 that was set aside for a project to install a polytunnel on another project which had not gone ahead. The funds were from Big Lottery & their preference was to use the money to support a local project rather than return it.

The catch was that we had about 10 days to do this!

So between myself, Abbi, Francesca, Oli & Bob, we managed to get the old frame down & re-erect it in record time…..

We need now to complete the carpentry & the tunnel can be re-covered some time this summer.

Although the tunnel was free it costs us £1500 to get a number of bits of frame that were missing, plus all the carpentry, postcrete etc plus £500 to employ labour to help us. But new this tunnel would cost approx £5000 and thats without the cost of putting it up!

Thankyou to everyone who helped to take it down & put it up. Big thanks to Big Lottery, Dai & Neil!!

 

 

GRAFT……

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A few pictures of GRAFT in development. (The project we are involved with in the heart of Swansea)…..The beds are full up, the pergola is up, planting has started with schools & adult volunteers. Drop in & have a look if you’re near the Maritime Museum.