Spotlight On: Barton Farm – a growing success

 

One of the most stunning areas of our beautiful campus is Barton Farm. Originally started by Sixth Form students in 2019 after a parent conversation with the Master about MCM needing ‘some chooks’, the farm has grown incredibly in the last few years. Funded by the Friends of MCM, Barton Farm continues to be carefully tended by pupils, staff, and Friends of MCM. In this week’s Spotlight, Mr Paul Lowden, who leads the Friends of MCM Barton Farm group, explains why having this living resource is so important.
Not many schools have 90 acres; fewer have a lake; and a farm.

The delight of Barton Farm is not what is grown there but the process behind it. Pupils come down, plant seeds, trim pineapple stalks, pick mulberries, taste limes, smell lemongrass, chew sugar cane and observe mini beasts, all within five minutes of their classroom.
We have a huge range of plants from beautiful bananas, zingy galangal, elegant torch ginger to spicy turmeric, fiery chillies and soothing aloe vera.

In between the longer growing plants we establish rapid growth planting so that the long beans, radish, wing beans, Malabar spinach, mint and borage flourish for use at the canteen.

Not all is as easy as it seems; the underlying element is solid clay so we have created our own soil from wood chips, leaves, coffee grounds and clearance material from the Estate’s department. This compost is mulched down with the help of mini beasts to create a beautiful topsoil we can use on the raised beds.
To ensure some longevity we also develop plants from cuttings and now have over 350 mulberry bushes from an original 25! Due to careful pruning these plants now crop at least twice a year, and the delicious berries go to make a jus for pouring over fruit salads. Avocado seeds have been brought in by pupils for planting on and several are now well over 5 metres tall. In another 10 years they might produce a crop! Lemon trees grown from pips are now ready to fruit.
Guava, jackfruit, custard apple and Singapore cherries are also established and provide entertainment and food for the local bird life. Sea eagles have been seen heading for the lake, olive backed sunbirds twitter in the bushes, kingfishers look bored on the bougainvillaea by the ditch and the ever-present koel keeps everyone on their toes!

When everyone else is in a hurry, taking time to potter around on the farm is perhaps more important than ever. Friends of MCM gather every Wednesday morning to eat cake, drink coffee and sometimes to plant and harvest! Come and join them in our growth industry by contacting FoMCM here or find out more about Barton Farm on our website.

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