Monday, 26 September 2016

Open Day, 1st October!

The 1st October marks the CSA Network's first ever nationwide open day, celebrating CSAs across the country, raising awareness and encouraging people to get involved with their local group. Handily, it also coincides with the closing weekend of the St Albans and Harpenden Food and Drink Festival, and to mark both occasions we will be holding an Open Day at FoodSmiles - and we'd love it if you came along!

1st October, 1-5pm
FoodSmiles St Albans, Hammonds End Farm, Hammonds End Lane, off Redbourn Lane, Harpenden, AL5 2AY. When you enter the farmyard, turn left after the barn on the left and find us through the wooden gate. (Please drive very slowly in the farmyard area.)

Come along for a tour and to see what we do, or bring gardening gloves and get involved with the day's seasonal tasks, which will likely include sowing seeds for winter, planting out seedlings in a polytunnel, spreading manure and building new compost bins. There will be an opportunity to taste and compare the tomato varieties we grow here, and there will be a short talk on home composting 2-3pm. You'll also be welcome to ask questions about growing your own at home.

Admission is free (though donations are welcome and will go towards helping us to expand). 
Tea will be provided, along with a selection of cakes made with vegetables! 

Strong shoes are essential as the ground can be uneven underfoot, and please bring gardening gloves if you'd like to join in with the work.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Sunday, 28 February 2016

2016 Memberships Now Open!

If you've ever thought about joining FoodSmiles, now's the time! We have several new memberships open for the 2016 season, and we're looking to fill them as quickly as possible, as we've got seeds to sow and beds to prepare to get our crops growing for this year's weekly harvests!

We have two open afternoons just for you on Wednesday 9th March and Saturday 12th March, from 2pm until 5pm. Just turn up, and we'll show you round the farm, tell you a bit about what we do, and answer any questions.

Alternatively, you're welcome to email our secretary at for more information or to arrange an alternative time to visit - or to enquire about membership if you've been to the farm before.

You can find us at Hammonds End Farm, Hammonds End Lane, off Redbourn Lane, Harpenden, AL5 2AY. When you enter the farmyard, turn left after the barn on the left and find us through the wooden gate. Please drive very slowly in the farmyard area. 

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Polytunnel Progess

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The FoodSmiles team has been building a new polytunnel! When we moved in to Hammonds End Farm, we were fortunate to be offered the use of three polytunnels that were on the space... although one of them had lost its skin, and another had an acacia tree growing through it! With a bit of TLC though, we managed to recover and repair all of them and made really good use of them in our first year, growing tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.
However, at the end of last growing season, on a particularly windy day, 'polytunnel 1' finally gave up and blew away in the wind, so since then, with the help of some fundraising through members, supporters and grants from a County Councillor, we bought a new polytunnel and decided to build a new one ourselves. For the last two months, we've been working really hard to get this built and ready for crops next year.
We first prepared the site for the new polytunnel - it's in a different place to polytunnel 1 - by flattening the ground as best we could. We then needed to dig two rows of eight holes, each hole two feet deep, that were perfectly parallel, evenly spaced and at right angles to one another - a throwback to GCSE Pythagoras!
The next week we constructed the hoops, and fixed them together and strengthened them with a centre rail, storm stays and side rails using a ratchet spanner.
After that was building the doors and door frames for each end of the tunnel, which we did from scratch using timber, screws and nails. We needed to dig more holes at either end of the polytunnel so the doorframes could be sunk into the ground in the right positions.
This bank holiday weekend was the final push; we planned to build the timber side rails (which will help us to harvest rain water), aluminium base rails (to attach the polythene to) and to fix the polythene. We encountered a few challenges though - the pressure treated timber side rails were a bit too much for our cordless drills to cope with, so we couldn't bolt the rail to the frame. We also discovered pieces from the kit were missing! The connectors that fix the base rails to one another were missing so the base rails couldn't be constructed. Also, in typical bank holiday fashion, it was raining so the polythene couldn't go on.
Despite the setbacks we made significant progress by building the timber rails (see the photo) and preparing the aluminium in position, so a huge thank you to everyone involved, who has donated and gave their time and energy to get to this stage! We have also enjoyed many picnics together over the last few months getting to this point where we shared food and had a good laugh about the progress we've been making (or lack of)!
We're very excited by this new build as it means our members will receive even more in their veg boxes next year. We're also pleased to know that 'Polytunnel 1' can be recovered, and our dedicated member Richard has done a fantastic job in getting this ready. This means next year we will go from having two polytunnels to four, significantly increasing our growing capacity.
Next weekend, we're having our second annual Harvest Festival, where we will be celebrating another year of success and growth with all our members and supporters. If you're interested in seeing the polytunnel or anything else on the site, do pop down any time from 12-6pm on the 12th for a picnic, barbecue, music and games. We look forwards to seeing you there!

- Tom Carman

Friday, 21 August 2015

Grow It, Cook It, Eat It!

We're delighted that FoodSmiles will be part of the St Albans and Harpenden Food and Drink Festival this year, with our joint event with the Transition St Albans Home Grown Food Group; Grow It, Cook It, Eat It! Unfortunately you won't find us in the festival brochure, due to an error, but that's not stopping us and we do hope you'll join us on Wednesday, September 23rd, for a harvest-time celebration of all things homegrown. There will be displays of produce and pictures of what we've been up to this year, there will be tasters and produce to take home, there will be seeds and seedlings available in return for a small donation, and members of both groups will be on hand to answer questions and give advice about growing your own at home. The event will take place in the yurt at the Blacksmith Arms so drinks, including a range of real ales, will be available at the bar. The event is free and you're welcome to drop in at any time between 8pm and closing time. See you there!

Grow It, Cook It, Eat It
The Yurt at the Blacksmiths Arms
Wednesday September 23rd, 8pm-11pm
Entry: Free!  
FoodSmiles St Albans and Transition St Albans' Home Grown Food Group bring you a harvest-time celebration of all things home-grown; an informal social evening, with tasters of some produce and seeds and seedlings to take home. A range of real ales are available in the pub and members of the group will be on hand to share advice and answer questions about growing your own.