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Back to weekly collections

Social distancing gnomes, 2m between where you collect your veg and start of the staff break area.



As we head into the new summer veg season we have made the decision to change back to weekly collections and members packing their own veg.

The main reason for this is that we have to harvest much more frequently in the summer as everything is growing so much faster, I suspect you all want courgettes not marrows in your shares for instance!

With double the number of shares to pack and the fact the shares will be bigger, we just don’t feel able to guarantee the volunteer numbers to do this so our options were paid packers with the resultant increase in price to the share or going back to members packing their own veg. Safety is our first concern, and why we went to packing in the first place, but having had some time now to change our ways of working and time to look at the science the risk of contamination via food stuffs seems low.

Therefore we are going back to packing your own veg with the following restrictions.

1) Our harvesting team will continue to observe both social distancing, hand washing and disposable glove-wearing when handling veg such as packing salad leaves.

2) We require everyone entering the collection room to wash their hands for a minimum of 20 seconds with soap provided and to observe a minimum of 2m social distancing at all times.

3) Members to collect in their chosen timeslot to avoid queues and only one family at a time in the room.

4) Please do not rummage in the veg boxes, while your hands should be clean and free of virus if you have washed them properly we still ask that you have minimum contact with veg you are not taking home to protect others.

5) The ramp into the room is 2m long so please stand at least that far again away from the end of the ramp so people can come out of the room before you go in.

Veg collection on the left, staff break area on the right. 2m between Edward and Becca.

We have rejigged the room again. When you enter to get your veg you should turn left and stay within the U of tables where the veg will be laid out. You will find the Cog’s self-service area and the eggs and honey are behind the door as you come in where the big weighing scale used to be. The weighing scale and anything to do with staff and volunteer break times have been moved around so that in wet weather they can still be safely accessed if someone is collecting veg.

Collection area which has been turned 90 degrees compared to how it was before lockdown allowing us to divide the room into two much more.
Break area, safely away from the collection area and with plenty of clear floor space for getting to the kitchen and bringing in the harvest for weighing etc.

Storing winter Veg

With the change to collecting every two weeks, I have been asked for advice on storing veg so here are a few tips.

In general do not store veg in plastic be that bags or boxes, veg needs to breathe or it will go slimy and rot. The exception to this is listed below.

Root veg
In general, you should store root veg in a cool, dark, dry, frost-free place. Having said that if it is too dry they will eventually shrivel up so if you are keeping them for a long time some form of covering can help, for instance, we keep beetroot in slightly damp sand at the farm, this is generally only needed if you are keeping for a long time, however. Cool and dark makes them think its still winter, once it gets warmer they will try and sprout.

Potatoes MUST be kept in the dark or they go green which can make you ill if you eat it.

Most root veg does not need to go in a fridge unless you have nowhere outside the fridge which is cool.

Onions, garlic
Again cool and dry but dark is less needed, hence the traditional image of strings of onions hanging from ceilings. Keep the dry outer layers of skin on them until you use them as they protects them and keeps them fresh.

Try to store these away from other vegs especially potatoes as they tend to interact badly. Don’t keep them in the fridge, they will taint everything with an oniony taste.

If they start sprouting you will often find most of the onion or garlic clove is not very good anymore however you can plant them and eat the shoots instead, the garlic ones are very potent.

Leeks
Being softer these are generally best kept in the fridge and don’t have the strong smell that onion has so doesn’t taint other food in the same way

Squashes
These are pretty happy to just sit on the side until you are ready to use them. remember to check them, particularly the underside for any sign of damage or rot and use them quickly if you spot any.

Cabbages
The solid white cabbages are actually able to last quite well in a cool dark place much like root veg, the outside leaves dry out and protect the rest however in general cabbage is best kept in the fridge in most houses.

Leaves like Kale, salad etc
This is the exception to the plastic rule. They are the only things we pack in plastic bags because otherwise, they wilt very fast. If kept in the fridge they can stay in the plastic bags or be transferred into salad drawers or a box. If you wash them and want to store them for a while afterwards put between layers of kitchen roll or cloth to absorb any excess water.

Herbs
If the stems are long enough putting them in a small glass of water like a bunch of flowers works very well, otherwise treat like salad leaves.

Covid 19 Action Plan

We will update this as regularly as possible as things change.

Our basic policy is below.
We have made the following practical changes over and above the general ones below to implement that policy.

1) Veg collections are now every 2 weeks and all produce is bagged in advance of collection.

2) Harvest teams and packing teams are separate to keep contact between groups as low as possible and to keep each group as small as possible. The 2m rule is observed as much as humanly possible.

3) Both teams wear gloves when handling the produce so in general, only two people have touched most veg and sometimes only one for stored veg and at all times gloves will have been worn.

4) A collection time spreadsheet has been implemented so everyone has thier own collection slot and only one family at a time is allowed in the collection room. Everyone is asked to wash their hands before entering even when only collecting a bag of veg,


How we are approaching the Covid 19 situation.

  • The Five Acre steering group keeps on contact via email and other means and will keep up to date on current advice to determine changes to the level of risk and assess all new information.
  • We will consider a range of risk which will include medical, social, emotional, financial and reputational threats to members of the farm and the business.
  • We will only act on credible, verifiable information and evidence, not hearsay or rumour.  The farm will follow the directives of the UK Government and all official agencies.
  • The safety and well-being of our members and staff and volunteers will be our paramount consideration in all decisions and mitigation strategies.
  • All changes to normal operation will first be considered in light of the impact on members, volunteers and staff before being implemented.

At this current time, we are implementing the following.

  • We ask that everyone visiting the collection room wash their hands on entering and before collecting any veg using the new standpipe and soap (ie tap on a stick) we have put outside.
  • All staff and volunteers are asked to wash their hands on arrival, when returning from the field or other work areas, before eating and at any other sensible point in the day.
  • Any staff or volunteer who has any symptoms which are being defined as potentially Covid 19  to refrain from working at the farm in line with government self-isolation rules.
  • We consider most of the work we do to be low risk as it is outdoors and either working alone or in very small groups. If needed we can separate out work mornings so each person works at a distance to others. The main infection risk is break time, however, at this current point in time, it is still a very minor risk compared to most work environments, but we will be looking to implement staggered break times to limit contact where practical.
  • We are planning in case any staff member becomes ill or needs to self isolate and how we will cover the growing particularly in this situation.
  • We are a community and we see this as a time to pull together and consider all those within our community especially those who may be at more risk.

Growing the local CSA family

Local CSA map
CSA Map

Last weekend was the CSA Network AGM up near Newcastle, there was a wide range of people from different places and backgrounds. Some from established CSAs, others looking to start one but we all shared a passion for more local, sustainable, ecologically sound food production. We discussed several different areas of running CSAs from how to use social media to what sort of company structure as well as visiting Gibside CSA which is based on National Trust land. They run somewhat differently than us including using agroforestry ie growing veg between rows of trees partly because their main growing area is on top of a hill and so quite windswept.

We will cover the AGM more in a future podcast.

Back here and on Monday the first meeting to organise a new CSA in Warwickshire was held. As you can see on the map the farm will be sited between Dunchurch and Stockton. Its provisional name is Broadwell Turn Farm as it sits on the turn to Broadwell.

This new farm needs a new team to run it, while we hope to have a close and supportive relationship with the new farm the Five Acre Farm team are not going to run it. This will be the first farm in the area set up totally from scratch, as such it needs a wide range of people with a variety of skills including planning, fund raising, community connections, ideas for publicity and even making tea. If you think you can help or even just want to be on the mailing list to get updates please email
broadwellturncommunityfarm@gmail.com

Five Acre t-shirts, hoodies and bags

2 of the options in t-shirts, there are several more..

For a long time now we have wanted to have Five Acre t-shirts for wearing at events, running stalls etc but we also wanted to consider the environmental effects rather than just using a standard print service. We had various plans to print them ourselves but that involved extra work and time which none of us had. 

Then Teemill was suggested to us, they use organic products, re-newable energy and show you the whole process if you want to see it. They also print on demand which means we don’t have to either get orders in advance or spend out money in the hope we will get it back. 

All this means we are now able to offer everyone the chance to have a Five Acre T-shirt, Hoody, jumper or bag!  There are currently 3 designs, the logo on it’s own, the Local, Seasonal, Organic slogan or both at once.  Different items come in different colours depending what is available and works with the image.

Edie is wearing the logo and slogan on tan and Esther has the slogan one on white in the photo above. The hoodie and bag images are mockups from the website of the logo on its own.

There is no shipping costs from 9am Friday 1st feb till midnight Sunday 3rd of Feb. So order this weekend and save in postage.

Members’ meeting

We had a great time on Thursday night as we gathered to eat lovely food (amazing the variety of things that people make with farm veg!), find out what’s been happening on the farm this year, watch a fascinating film, and encourage each other with the positive impact that our farm has on so many issues of our time.For a flavour of life on the farm for the last season and a bit, have a look at Becca’s presentation membersmeeting2018
We had ups and downs, and she has recorded a lot of both with photos, so do have a look!Also available are Gareth’s slides on the 17/18 financial year. Many thanks go to Ann and Alex for bringing in massive amounts of grant funding, enabling us to employ Hannah during summer ’17, and fund her to attend the Soil Association Future Growers training. Alex beavered away on an Awards for All application which funded lots of new bits of kit, which is making life easier for Becca.
We are indebted as ever to Gareth for keeping our finances in order, and also for the many, many hours he volunteers on the farm. He specialises in weeding, but also provides a steady hand on the tiller, providing wisdom and experience to those of us on the steering group.

In My Wildest Dreams

As part of our future planning we are asking you to tell us what you would like to see happen in your wildest dreams. This exercise by us at the farm happens to have coincided with a conference called Feed Coventry about food poverty and looking at ways to solve this complex issue which includes a large element of sustainable urban farming so I though I would bring these two things together and give you my personal wildest dream for Coventry and the areas of Warwickshire around the farm. Most of the things I mention are already being done in other places

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The year is 2026. Five Acre Farm at Ryton, set up 15 years ago, was just the start of the development of local food production in Coventry,  Rugby and villages around them.

The Farm started small and continued to flourish gaining more land a few years ago to allow a wider range of activities to be run on site.. We have a permanent building with accommodation and a training area so we are able to have trainees staying with us as well as running a range of classes for local people on growing, cooking, preserving and a range of traditional crafts. Schools come on regular visits and we visit them in return to help them grow veg at school. We even have a horse to do the plowing and to pull the cart for farm tours and deliveries.

We helped several more CSA’s to set up in the area, including one over the other side of Rugby, one to the North of Coventry and a few more farther a field.

There are now firm connections with other small local farmers and this makes it easier for us all to reach local customers together. We have a great local food network where local growers and producers are able to help and support each other. Customers can come to a one stop on-line shop to order things and have them delivered or arrange to collect them.

Within Coventry and Rugby there are a range of urban growing projects. These range from a flourishing allotment system to spare land and roofs being used to grow fruit and veg, community orchards and empty buildings being used for mushrooms. Backyard chickens are common as are communal pig schemes in villages and a few people have even started running aquaculture set ups growing fish and salads in a closed system.

Urban growing has been particularly encouraged in more deprived areas and people on low incomes have been given support and help to start growing both for their own use and to sell. Many new city centre buildings have been designed to include green roofs where veg can be grown to be used in the cafes below them and surplus food from supermarkets and so on is used in pay as you can afford restaurants in residential areas.

Improved communications and marketing mean than it is easy to find the grower or producer nearest and most suitable for you be that someone round the corner selling surplus from their garden , a CSA down the road or the nearest small independent baker. Buying from local suppliers is encouraged and the councils, universities and other big businesses have changed their procurement set ups to allow them to buy local first.

All of this has also be mirrored with a similar improvement in other areas such green power production, improved insulation, transport, flexible education and working conditions and other local initiatives.  There is a flourishing sense of community and people are actively helping each other and looking out for those near then who might need support on occasion.

by Esther Reeves

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This is MY dream… what’s yours???

Please consider filling in our survey 

or email us your own wildest dream, if we get a few I will create a section on the website for them all to inspire us.

This summer on the farm

aberginesWe have had a good summer on the farm, with help from a regular team of volunteers, though we can always use more, Julie working part-time with Becca and a work experience student from France. We will be looking to get more work experience students next year as it worked so well..

The new polytunnels and biodegrable mulch sheets on the field have both helped improve the crops and many varieties have cropped very well this year. For instance we have already harvested 100kg more tomatoes than last year, double the amount of aubergines, more cucumbers which are bigger, double the weight of turnips, carrots in tunnel: last yr 193kg, this yr 264kg. Broad beans: last yr 120kg, 180kg this year.

polytunnelWe have harvested 1.8 tons of potatoes so far this year compared with 2.4 tons last year BUT we are only halfway through. We have so many storable veg we have run out of space and need to rejig the storage to cope !

Not everything has grown as well however, the courgettes have struggled more but we should have some good squash and a couple of new and interesting types of Kale are growing well for a little later in the year. We will shortly be planting the polytunnels with winter crops including salad leaves, oriental greens, cornsalad, winter purslane, rocket, spinach, spring onions etc

We hope you have enjoyed the veg this summer and as always if you have any questions or suggestions just email us (info@fiveacrefarm.org.uk) or talked to Becca on the farm.

Weather and the Hungry Gap

This is a repeat of an article published in our newsletter.

One of the things those of us who grow things are very aware of is the weather, both because we are outside in it and because it has a huge effect on how and when things grow.

For our members at this time of year the main thing is how the weather effects the Hungry Gap. For those new to seasonal veg this it is the time when the winter veg has finished and the summer veg hasn’t really got going. This year will be our fourth Hungry Gap. The first in 2013 was very easy as most things panned out and the winter veg hung on till the summer veg was starting. The last couple of years we have had more of a gap with the winter veg finishing early.

This year we have had an extremely warm winter until this last few weeks, so warm that the Cauliflowers which should have been ready in April were ready at Christmas and the oriental greens in the polytunnels have been bolting (trying to flower). Becca can plant more of the fast growing salad leaves but things like cauliflowers take months to grow.

On the flipside we have not been able to plant the summer seeds early, at least those that are temperature sensitive as we have been concerned about the reliability of the heating in the greenhouse so have been waiting on a seed incubator system we can use within the greenhouse as a extra protection for the more tender seedlings like the tomatoes and so on.

The last few weeks have got  colder as I’m sure you have all noticed. http://www.bablakeweather.co.uk which has comprehensive information on the weather in Coventry says this Feb has been colder than average and over 60% wetter than average. The field drains very well is a plus in wet weather though more challenging when dry.

We are keeping an eye on how things are growing and we will keep you informed once we know what the hungry gap is going to be like, the hardest time is normally April/May.

Christmas, the New Year and preserving

New Polytunnel

New Poly-tunnel

As we do the last couple of harvests before the Christmas break we hope you are all enjoying this time of year. We have had quite a lot of rain and in generally it has been pretty warm in the final few weeks of this year though a couple of cold days have reminded us that it is winter. I don’t know about you but I look forward to the coming weeks when the days start to lengthen even though most years it also get colder for a while.

We have an new large polytunnel for this coming year so hopefully this will allow us to grow more things on the margins of the seasons especially in the hungry gap (Apr – May) which those who have been members for a while will know can be a problem depending how the weather treats us.. I half expect it to be perfect growing weather this year like we had in 2013 with the winter veg finishing just as the summer veg comes in just because we have the  extra polytunnel but given this autumn has been so mild some things have flowered which shouldn’t be doing so till spring I think we may need it !

Those of you who are members remember  last collections are 19th Dec/22nd Dec and we restart Jan 9th/jan 12th  depending of course on if you collect on a Saturday or a Tuesday.

The first event of the New Year is our Winter cooking and preserving
event on 14th January. We hope you will join us and the event if open to none members as well as members. We plan to cover things like Lacto- fermentation, such as sauerkraut and Kimchi as well as dehydration, low energy cooking and a few fun kitchen tools some of us enjoy using.   We will also be running a short members meeting on the night just to give the annual report of how we are doing.