This was a week to be grateful for our tremendous sainfoin crop.

It started on Monday with the excitement of seeing a partridge and a brood of eight tiny chicks scuttling along the field margin. At this age the partridge chick is highly dependent on insects for protein and a good start in life. Shifts in UK agriculture over the last 60 years have resulted in a crash of wild partridge populations; principally the effect of insecticides on chick dietary requirements, predation and habitat loss. Sainfoin provides an abundance of insect life, habitat and refuge from predators. 

With the rain we had this week, the farm is also thankful to have June’s cut of sainfoin already ensiled for winter feeding. The rainfall will help the ley come on before another cut is taken.

The first cut of sainfoin happened before flowering, so a tractor’s width margin was left to flower, with the resulting blooms giving us the summer honey we extracted today – and many insects for the partridge chicks, too. Such is its resilience to drought conditions, the sainfoin cut in June has already bounced back and is in mid-flower. The bees are currently enjoying this second bite of the cherry, so if the weather stays warm we might extract a bonus crop of honey in time for our Harvest Festival and the North Cotswold Beekeepers Association Honey Show on 23rd September.  

Considering the extensive benefits, it is a wonder why more farmers do not commit to growing sainfoin. Having said that, maybe they will, as Richard Smith’s regular vlogs for our charitable collaboration Agricology have proven immensely popular as a learning tool – particularly the establishment and mowing of the ley. We would love to see more farmers take the plunge and grow more chemical-free, fertility-building leys like sainfoin. If not just for our own enjoyment of the beautiful flowering leys and quality meat, for the benefits to the birds and the bees.

This initiative supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals.