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.


Practical changes for veg share members and the public.

1) Veg collections are back to every week and you pick your own share from the boxes of veg. This is in line with how shops operate and the science shows veg is a very low risk of contact. We advise washing all veg before eating as good practice at any time.

2) A collection time spreadsheet has been implemented so everyone has their own collection slot to minimise queues and only one family at a time is allowed in the collection room. Please bring suitable outdoor clothing if the weather needs it because at this time we have no covered waiting areas.

3) Everyone is asked to wash their hands before entering even when only collecting a bag of veg. Please bring your own towel.

4) Please stay at least 2m away from anyone not in your household, there is plenty of space so this should be possible at all times.

5) Make sure you wait far enough away from the end of the ramp so anyone inside can get out. Waiting at the standpipe or in the seating area is ideal.

6) Please do not rifle through the veg more than is strictly needed to collect your share.

7) Finally, if you are isolating or showing any symptoms of Covid please do not collect your veg, instead please either ask another member who lives close to you to collect for you or contact Esther and we will do our best to find someone who can bring your veg to you from within our community.

8) If you wish to visit for any reason other than veg collection please arrange this in advance so we know numbers on site. This includes any advertised activities which are currently all pre booked. This includes volunteering on a Saturday.


How we are approaching the Covid 19 situation.

  • The Five Acre steering group keeps in 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, 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.

  • All members collecting veg are asked to pick a collection time and stick to it as much as possible to limit queues.
  • 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. We are also limiting access to the indoor space to one collection family at a time.
  • Visitors are asked to arrange visits in advance so we can keep a track of expected numbers on site. Any organised activities such as field tours, educational activities and so on will be pre-booked only again to limit numbers and comply with current relevant guidance.
  • All staff, volunteers and visitors are required to respect 2m social distancing at all times unless an emergency or other situation where this is not possible. In such a case extra protection such as masks, gloves etc should be used as appropriate.
  • 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.
    Any veg share member or visitor with symptoms or needing to isolate should contact us to re-arrange visits or veg collections, we will accommodate this as much as possible within the limits of our staffing levels.
  • 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.
  • 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. We can separate out work mornings so each person works at a distance to others.
  • We are spreading volunteer slots across multiple days so that we limit numbers on-site on any one day. Regular volunteers have set days and so work with the same team each week.
  • The main infection risk for staff and volunteers is break time, however, it is still a very minor risk compared to most work environments. Breaks are taken outside if at all possible. If the weather is bad then we have rearranged the indoor break area so that several people can use it while being 2m apart and if needed breaks will be staggered.
  • We are planning in case any staff member becomes ill or needs to self isolate and in particular how we will cover the growing 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.

Tender to buy land at Ryton Organic Gardens

Proposal for Five Acre Community Farm to Purchase Land at Ryton Organic Gardens.

Background

Five Acre Community Farm (trading name of South Warwickshire Local Food cic) is a successful community supported agriculture scheme that currently rents 6ac of land (the field), space in the barn and glasshouses, some polytunnel space and some machinery (including a tractor) from Garden Organic. It also owns equipment and a polytunnel in its own right. The farm has been trading for six full years and is a financially viable community supported agriculture business employing a grower and two part time staff who support a lively group of members and volunteers from the Coventry and Rugby areas. The farm produces a weekly share of vegetables for members, runs well supported work days, and hosts a number of educational and learning opportunities for the wider community.

Garden Organic is currently seeking ideas for its site which it manages but which currently detracts from its charitable mission.

Proposal

Our proposal is that Five Acre Community Farm form itself into a community benefit society (CBS) and launch a community share offer for the horticultural element of the current site comprising roughly 10-14 ac (to be agreed and measured) but to include the current veg production field, two glasshouses, various polytunnels and outbuildings including the barn, an orchard as well as other wooded or enclosed areas (see area within red line on map below). The tractor and machinery would also be included in the value. Right of access shown in yellow would also need to be included.

Red is outline of the land we want to buy. Yellow is rights access needed.

Actions required

Steps that would need to be taken by Five Acre and Garden Organic include:

1) agreeing what to include in the holding but to include the land which currently falls under agricultural use together with additional areas and buildings of potential agricultural use.

2) agree value with Garden Organic as well as any uplift or other conditions including rights of way. The Ecological Land Cooperative (http://ecologicalland.coop/) could potentially broker this. Agricultural land in Warwickshire is currently valued at around £10,000 per acre whilst the farm buildings and polytunnels would need to be separately valued as per their agricultural use value and condition. We have previously used land agents for similar work (Godfrey-Payton locally (http://www.godfrey-payton.co.uk/)).

3) consult with current farm members and business consultants to form business plan for CBS and community share offer (regulated by FCA (Financial Conduct Authority)). Coventry and Warwickshire Cooperative Development Agency (based in Coventry, http://www.cwcda.co.uk/) have expressed an interest in being a partner in this process. They also have access to Cooperative Development grant funding should it be needed.

We would also be willing to consult with Garden Organic as to how they would like to preserve the heritage and legacy aspects of the site and discuss how members could access this within the business plan. We could also seek to maintain some of the current ‘historical’ gardens (e.g. Geof Hamilton Garden, Muck and Magic Garden and Biodynamic Garden) with the help of current Garden Organic volunteers. Other potential partners include Warwickshire and Coventry Bee keepers, Coventry University (through the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR)), horticultural therapy charities, and forest school enterprises linked to local schools.

4) launch community share offer to raise capital (community campaign of 3 months).

5) buy site.

This process is likely to take of the order of 9 to 18 months depending on the time frame stipulated by Garden Organic but the Five Acre share issue would take 6 months to gain FCA and HMRC approval (for SITR (social investment tax relief status)) and 3 months to run a share issue campaign. We would model the process on Canalside Community Food (http://www.canalsidecommunityfood.org.uk/) which is currently undertaking a similar scheme in nearby Leamington and in which some of the members of Five Acre are also involved.

Benefits

For Garden Organic we see the advantages as

  • ensuring the continuation of the site for its original intended purpose; the promotion of sustainable organic horticulture and agriculture by an asset locked organisation (Five Acre) and a continuation of the work of Garden Organic in engaging the wider community in organic growing.

  • it would remove the burden of managing the half of the site that is currently managed by contractors and remove the barn and damaged glasshouses and polytunnels as liabilities.

  • it could also be available for Garden Organic as a demonstration and legacy site into the future if an agreement was drawn up between the two organisations including as a potential site to multiply and display Heritage Seed Varieties (subject to a management agreement between the two parties).

  • the continuation of organic management of the site should be attractive to current members and past members of Garden Organic and could potentially preserve the legacy and heritage of the site ensuring the ongoing good reputation of the charity.

The advantages of this proposal as we see it for Five Acre Community Farm:

  • a minimal interruption to our ongoing community vegetable production business

  • a guarantee of the sustainability of the farm as a community asset in the long term

  • addition of social programmes by adding a care farm or horticultural therapy element to the work benefiting the community in Coventry, Rugby and South Warwickshire in particular.

  • it would be a focus for community land based activities in Coventry, Rugby and south Warwickshire (e.g. bee keeping, woodcraft activities)

  • it would also have the security of tenure necessary of investment and the CBS structure in place to allow the raising of further capital should it be necessary to develop various land based enterprises sustainably.

Sale Price

Given the advantages to both parties we would expect to come to a mutual agreement as to a fair market price for a community buy out of the horticultural/agricultural element of the site. We would expect to pay the market rate for agricultural land and buildings as evaluated by an agreed independent assessor. Currently we are estimating that the land, machinery and agricultural buildings would be of the order of £300- 400,000 taking into account their state of repair.

Gareth Davies

Five Acre Community Farm

10 February 2018

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

_______________________________________________________

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.