News / coronavirus

Land needed as Bristol’s grassroots growers seek to increase production

By ellie pipe, Monday Mar 30, 2020

With supermarkets struggling to cope with demand and significant disruption expected to fresh imports, Bristol’s grassroots organisations are rising to the challenge.

The city’s small businesses have had to adapt almost overnight in the face of the unprecedented challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic and they are fast filling a vital need.

Market gardener Humphrey Lloyd currently grows on a one-acre patch, Edible Futures, in Stapleton and is one of many that has had to change his business model in response to the outbreak. He is now urgently seeking more land to increase production and keep communities stocked up.

“International supply chains of vegetables are already being affected and this situation will get worse through the season resulting in sharply rising food prices, impacting the poorest and most vulnerable the most,” explains Humphrey.

“However, it is not too late to plough ground, and get crops in the ground to ease the seriousness of this situation. I am a grower with the energy and know-how to make this happen, all I need is access to a few acres of ground for a single year. If there is someone who can give us a short term lease or land share arrangement for this season, they will be part of a project of outstanding significance in terms of positive responses to the global pandemic.”

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Read more: Bristol food and drink businesses collaborate in times of crisis

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The UK currently imports more than 50 per cent of its vegetables and, over the coming months, it is anticipated that these imports will be significantly disrupted as spring planting windows are missed across Europe due to the outbreak, and the movement of seasonal workers is restricted.

Meanwhile, demand for local produce has rocketed over the past few weeks, with many local veg box suppliers having to close their doors to new customers in order to be able to fulfil orders they already have.

Humphrey is looking for between three and five acres of agricultural land, as near as possible to his existing site on Frenchay Park Road. He is aiming to grow field scale vegetables to supply into local markets, potentially providing vegetables for 150 households per week.

Bristol Food Producers also has a list of people seeking land and is keen to match new entrant farmers up with any available pieces of land.

Ped Asgarian, managing director at The Community Farm in Chew Magna, said; “We need to start planning for increased production that can, not only deal with the demand but create stronger and more resilient local supply chains.

“Smaller-scale farms have been shown to positively impact people, infrastructure and the economy, increasing literacy, employment rates and wellbeing.

“We know there is available land in the Bristol area that can be used to cultivate food for the city, and this is a great opportunity for Bristol to become the leading light in food production for people and the planet.”

Anyone able to help with supplying land can email  bristolfoodproducers@gmail.com.

Main photo courtesy of Humphrey Lloyd

Read more: Volunteers deliver food parcels to Bristol’s most vulnerable people 

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