The Community Farm in Chew Magna has launched a new scheme to raise money to support their organic farm and outreach programmes, and to inject a little bit of the countryside into Bristol business.
Farming for the community…
The farm – known for its unique ethos that encourages members of the public, children and vulnerable adults to ‘get on their land’ – is offering businesses in and around Bristol and Bath the chance to sponsor a crop and follow its progress throughout the year with their Adopt-a-Crop programme.
Set in 15 acres of organically certified land overlooking the pristine expanse of the Chew Valley Lake, The Community Farm is owned by more than 500 members of the local community who all have a say in how the farm is run. As a social enterprise, its profits are put straight back into the farm to fund outreach programmes that help children and adults to reconnect with the land and to gain a better understanding of where their food comes from.
The farm already gained attention earlier this year when they won the Soil Association’s prestigious BOOM Award for their vegetable box scheme, which delivers organic produce fresh from the farm and from a network of local producers to homes throughout Bristol, Bath and North Somerset.
Educating from farm to fork…
Until now, The Community Farm has relied on income from its box scheme and wholesale business to develop their educational programmes and outreach work. The farm regularly welcomes groups of school children on to their land, allowing them to explore the crops, pick and taste vegetables fresh from the field and learn about the wildlife that thrives in the farm’s rich organic habitat. Regular children’s activity days at the farm, focussing on hands-on fun and games, are designed to improve wellbeing and engage children in the story of food, from farm to fork.
Providing learning opportunities for adults is also a key aim for The Community Farm, which employs a dedicated Community Engagement Officer to enrich the visitor experience. Members of the public can work on the land at regular Community Farmer Days, whilst an army of volunteers come weekly to the farm to gain an in depth understanding of sustainable farming and – in turn – provide the farm with indispensable field support.
The Community Farm has an ongoing relationship with the Bristol Drugs Project, which has seen vulnerable adults learn new skills in horticulture and helped people back into employment through traineeships at the farm. Engagement with the land has been recognised by those involved as an important therapeutic tool in helping people through recovery.
Through the Adopt-a-Crop scheme, the farm hopes to raise vital funds to develop their outreach work and to continue to nurture a safe and accessible environment in which they can welcome people from all walks of life to their land. Future plans for the farm include further investment in traineeships for vulnerable adults, as well as a greater focus on developing therapeutic programmes for those with mental and physical health difficulties.
The farm aims to develop lasting relationships with local businesses, connecting with their staff both on and off the farm. As well as being kept updated on the progress of their chosen veg, businesses who adopt a crop can enjoy days at the farm with their team, a mini farmers’ market at their office and year-round discounts for all staff on vegetable boxes, not to mention lots of noise from The Community Farm about their generous support. Companies can even sponsor local school to visit the farm for a day of fun and learning.
Local organic store Better Food, who are amongst the first to sponsor a healthy crop of leeks, recently sent a team of staff to the farm to experience a day working the land, fuelled by a homemade lunch in the farm’s purpose-built yurt. Katie Riddle, who works as a customer assistant at Better Food’s St. Werburgh’s store talked about how much she enjoyed the experience: “It was brilliant; I particularly loved getting my hands in the earth transplanting the salad seedlings, and picking the giant marrows. It felt like a really nourishing experience for our team.”