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

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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.

Squash Harvest

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We had to harvest the squash before the social morning because of the risk of frost damaging them. We still have plenty to harvest this Saturday though so do come over to help or just to see all these squash in person !

Don’t forget we are having a barbecue so bring a dish, something to throw on the barbecue or just come for harvest soup (veg soup made from produce from the farm) and to socialise.

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Social morning and Barbecue

Come and join us on Saturday 3rd Oct for a social morning and Barbecue and Harvest soup. We plan to be harvesting the squash and pumpkins which are always fun to collect in and the kids, and many adults, love to see the different shapes and sizes.

Afterwards we will have gathering for some social time and to share a meal, bring food for the barbeque, something pre cooked to share or just come for some soup we will make from the veg on the field.