Located in a hidden valley between Muller Road and the railway is Purple Patch, a smallholding that’s a perfect picture of self-sufficient, sustainable farming.
Run by husband and wife team Mary and Jona Conway, along with their brood of children, Purple Patch is a shining example of permaculture done well.
A real oasis away from the bustling city, Marys grows everything from salad leaves (which are used in the nearby St Werburgh’s City Farm cafe, The Cauldron, Popti & Beast and The Old Library) to seasonal squash.
The pair have created a thriving small business selling vegetable boxes filled with produce grown on site. After moving to the farm in 2014, the site, which has been farmed since Medieval times, has gone from strength to strength, and now sports a polytunnel, which produces ten kilos of salad leaves a week, and even a small orchard.
Mary and Jona also look after a small herd of Dexter cattle and rare-breed pigs, saying:“We subsidise the animals’ grazing with locally produced hay, waste fruit and veg, and grain from local shops and breweries.”
“Jona and I went WWOOFING in New Zealand after I dropped out of university,” Mary says. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do and we went to these amazing permaculture farms and met loads of people who told us loads of interesting things about the world that we’d never heard before.”
Upon their return, they moved to Norwich and lived in a caravan and moved to Bristol shortly after. The caravan is still on the site, but the family now live in a converted shed.
“I always loved plants and growing things and gardening,” Mary enthuses, talking about how she enjoyed being outside in her small childhood garden in London with her mum.
The smallholding’s aim to do good not only supports local farming and biodiversity, but also helps the local community eat better, increasing the foods available to people living and working nearby.
The farm even runs an internship programme, giving people new to food growing a hands-on experience, plus lots of vegetables, in return for a few hours work on the farm each week.
Farming in the middle of a city present challenges – the public have access to Purple Patch as it’s located on a busy cycle path – but Mary is quick to highlight the positives or urban farming, such as having to be inventive with the space available and the supportive community that supports them.
Mary and Jona wants to empower local people to skill-up and start growing their own food, and with a fruitful five years behind them, Purple Patch looks to grow their reach even further in the future.
Purple Patch is part of Going for Gold, an initiative aiming to make Bristol more sustainable. Find out more at www.goingforgoldbristol.co.uk