New Year’s greetings to all our members, friends and allied partner organisations; We would like to send you all warm wonderful deep mid-winter wishes for health and happiness, joy and abundance and renewal of your creative paths for the unfolding months of 2017.
We would also like to share with you some of the highlights of the last year in the various streams of influence that we are promoting, developing and sharing with the world.
On the land
Three new projects began and were seeded at the beginning of 2016. With the help of our share offer and grant development these have now taken hold and are moving forward.
Listen to Emile talk about the work he is doing at Sacred Earth with rare breeds and his relationship with Silo restaurant on the December Farmarama podcast, produced in conjunction with Indiefarmer.Listen now..
Emile our farmer has established the beautiful, friendly and inquisitive large black pigs, a British rare breed, of which we now have 2 breeding sows, with a third soon to be ready, and within 2016 we saw them give birth to two litters each totalling over 30 piglets between them. We are delighted with their progress, not only are they a breed which has only 70 breeding pairs left in the country, but our success with them creates possibilities for other small holders to re-establish the breed. Their snouts and trotters have been really busy turning over one of the old disused fields, bringing fertility, astrality and reenergising the soil there in preparation of a green manure/grass clover lay for spring sowing. Emile has also developed a really good relationship with the popular Silo restaurant in Brighton. When their day comes, their journey is swift and unstressed with a short journey to Heathfield abattoir, then back to our local Horam butchers for processing, and from there to the table, making their carbon footprint of travel very small compared to the majority of last journeys for pigs in this country.
Our two small Light Sussex and Labresque chicken flocks are established (again rare breeds), with the eggs being sold every day in the village. Emile and I worked hard at the end of the year to ensure we met our biodynamic and organic certification requirements and I am delighted to say that we achieved that in early December and so are now within the certification process, ensuring quality of our produce, but also stewardship and care of the landscape that our animals and plants grow in. Also this year with the support of Plaw Hatch Farm, Emile will be bringing forth a large sheep flock that will graze on two different locations in Sussex with relationships that have been established with other farm holdings – these are on the Pevensey Levels and Hawthbush Farm near Gun Hill. Watch out for our future lamb boxes.
Alongside the agricultural development, Alice at Sacred Seeds has been steadily growing her herbal box scheme and delivered herbal workshops both on site and around Sussex. Check out our calendar of events to find out about workshops, community events and volunteer days taking place at Sacred Earth in 2017.
Annemarie, Tom and Elaine have been fulfilling their creative expression with their collaboration on the Making Ground art project, bringing together clay and willow from the site into various forms and designs. We welcome proposals from other rural artists who are looking for a location in Sussex to install their work and run workshops.
Sacred Earth Biochar has been steadily creating a stockpile of charcoal over the last 6 months and have developed surplus seed compost activator and compost inoculator packs for sale and for use on our own fields. We are now developing our tree compost support pack and over the next couple of months have different size oak trees and support packs on a special winter offer.
For all of those who wish to plant for a promising future for the generations to come, tree planting is a win/win solution, locking carbon in the ground with the biochar compost, the tree itself and the future growth of oak trees in our lands and environment that supports over 300 different species when mature.
With funding support we have created a new trainee land steward and biochar technician position. In December we met a young man from Heathfield who contacted us via the Soil Association who is keen to fill the position and has the right attitude and some skills to bring to the role.
Our biggest challenge, both time consuming and labour intensive has actually brought our most effective growth fulfilling the community share offer and our transition from Community Interest Company to Community Benefit Society which gives us the capacity to reach farther, be a more effective, sustainable and regenerative legal and management structure and enables us to co-collaborate with conscious, creative and collective design.
It began with a phenomenal open day in September, with over 230 visitors throughout the day both local and regional. Within 6 weeks we completed a successful share offer with the campaign raising an astounding £43,000 in community investment and an additional 200 new society members. Over the next 12 months we will be delivering the bones of our business plan which once set in motion should set the journey for the next five years. Our investment is being used wisely to bring further infrastructure to the site, increase assets and add revenue streams to bring the projects as a whole further towards its vision. For more information visit our community share offer page.
Overall it has been an awesome year for the land project and has helped root the foundations to now grow branches and our tree of life from the site.
The education team that consists of Victoria Mew, Alex Travers, Mark Gilbert, myself and guest teachers and camp support staff have spent the year carrying various streams forwards that make a river of connection. As ever the main highlight of the year was the Earth Steward Apprenticeship (ESA) programme for teens. Over nine months a group of teens shared, learnt, experienced and endeavoured in all forms of nature connection, sensory and awareness techniques, survival skills for thriving in the wild and in life, and saw them completing both a 24 hour fire quest and in their last week a 3 day clan survival quest. As rites of passage these are full, sensual, embodied experiences that cap the rest of the years learning and support our young children/teens into their next steps as young adults.
Community Craft Camp 2017
This year the Cultivating Curiosity Community Craft Camp will take place between 2-6th August. For more information visit the Cultivating Curiosity website.
We also delivered a fourth year of nature connection activities for Warden Park Primary Academy in Haywards Heath, ran a Junior ESA camp for 10-12 year olds in May, ran a variety of single days and a friends and family camp, supported Cultivating Curiosity with their monthly mentoring and nature days each month and (one of my personal highlights), their community craft camp in the Ashdown Forest, where various age groups had their own clans and activities, various craft workshops were offered, including bronze making, willow basketry, fire making and wood crafts, and interspersed with lovely tribal meals and gatherings, songs, games and laughter.
We also developed a new strand of work with an organisation called FarmBuddies – this is a small, specialised interaction with teens with autism and learning challenges like ADHD, working with the land in conservation, farming and finding ways to improve nature connection for them. The programme ran a trial ten week course for a small select group which has shown to be connective, fun and engaging for all those involved – students, parents, teachers, support staff and the Sacred Earth team. We’ll be running a second programme in the spring and we’ll be putting together a case study to share with our members and supporters.
The last part of the year saw us delivering a large school camp to 48 young teens for Michael Hall School; this was our seventh year in partnership and deemed by all a great success and great connector for us all. Finally the celebration and witnessing of ESA students weekend in early November was a great event, with parents coming in for a shared lunch, hearing the wonderful stories of our young adults and honouring their achievements.
Overall 2016 was a very promising and fulfilling year with a lot of engagement with young people of all ages.
Coming up in 2017
Sign up to receive our quarterly newsletters (sent out around the equinoxes and solstices) and check out our event calendar to keep up-to-date with what’s happening throughout the year as we will be running various volunteer days, workshops and courses – foraging days, craft days with flint knapping, wood and leather making workshops, bird language and nature connection courses, family nature days, camps, ESA 2017, Junior ESA, an introduction to archery weekend and adult day courses in nature, culture and connection.
We will also have the online shop up and running at full capacity in the spring, giving customers the opportunity to purchase Biochar Compost and Earth Elixirs, Sacred Seeds herb boxes, produce from Hathor farm, and also hopefully soon various crafts for sale, gift trees, and maybe even Sacred Earth t-shirts and hoodies!
So best wishes and see you all in the new year, let’s make it as connective as we can together, as it’s us as a collective, committed group of people that can change the world, make the world a better place for the generations to come and along the way have fun and connection that fills our hearts and minds.
All the best for 2017!
Phil Greenwood and the Sacred Earth CBS team