I can’t quite believe that it is only six months or thereabouts since work began to create our very own farm here at MCM. The land was cleared and a huge amount of preparation went in to sorting out drainage, bringing in fresh top-soil and manure (with continued thanks to one of our parents, Mr Loi of ‘Farmfresh’) and the designation of Dil, one of our Nepali Estates staff as our full-time farmer to look after the area. Under the watchful eye of our Director of Estates, Harry Harkins, and with the support, advice and lots of seedlings provided by Will, Thomas and Imran from FOLO, six months on, we have an absolutely amazing, and very tranquil, space and this week saw the important milestone of the farm being given its name – Barton Farm. In true MCM tradition, we have made the connection back to Marlborough in the UK and named it after a very old farm, the land of which, although not used as a farm now, falls within the grounds of MCUK. Who knows – we may inspire MCUK to start farming!
We are growing lots of things (all organic) including mulberries, bamboo, sugar-cane, pineapples, bananas, aubergines, sweet potato, candle bush, pigeon pea, Sarawak eggplant, tapioca, chillis, cucumber okra, string beans and pandan and our plan is that as produce is ready, our CAS (Creativity Action, Service ) group of Sixth Formers will harvest it and offer it for sale on Friday afternoons alongside Friends’ coffee at Prep School. Groups of pupils are also looking at a composting project and how to make recycled name plates to identify the huge variety of vegetables growing there. We have a number of activity slots during the week (Monday and Thursday mornings and Friday afternoons) when pupils are engaged in the farm.
A huge milestone, for me in particular, was the arrival of our chickens – 10 including a rooster – and they have settled very well in to their new home – a one-off custom-built coop built by our talented Estates team. They are getting used to lots of young visitors, who are especially welcomed if they bring edible treats, and they are fascinating to watch – they observe a strict pecking order and woe betide anyone of them who forgets her place! It is so therapeutic to watch them put themselves to bed at sunset – they instinctively know when that is and they each have their own spot on the roosting bars. We have four eggs already and we have resisted the temptation to eat them, waiting to see if they will hatch.
We are so fortunate here at MCM that we have this beautiful and productive space where we can come and feel connected to nature and experience the sheer joy of, for example, eating a string bean picked from the plant or tasting for the first time an edible blue butterfly pea flower – as our junior full boarders did on Wednesday evening. Thanks to the hard work and support of all those involved, including FoMCM, without whose support, it would not have been possible, we have had a wonderful start to our farming experience and we look forward to it going from strength to strength.