Planet / Features

Boomtime for The Community Farm

By ann sheldon, Tuesday Aug 2, 2016

The Community Farm has just won Best Box Scheme in the Soil Association’s BOOM (Best of Organic Market) awards. It’s a pretty big deal for a community venture to scoop this award. BOOM recognises organic retailers and restaurants who promote organic products. The Community Farm does much more than grow and sell organic produce. Profits are ploughed back into learning experiences and activities for local children, adults and vulnerable people.

One of the The Community Farm founders is Chew Valley farmer Luke Hasell who left a successful career in London to run the family farm. He created The Story Group meat box scheme, to provide fresh produce to local consumers, with Jim Twine in 2005 when they inherited neighbouring farms. They now work with a network of local organic producers to sell local and organic vegetables, fruit, meat, dairy products and groceries. 

The Community Farm grew as a joint venture between Luke and Jim with Phil Haughton of the Better Food Company, to establish an organic vegetable farm as a community project. A community share offer in 2011 netted £126,000 from just over 400 investors. This enabled the farm to take over Better Food’s organic growing, wholesale and veg box scheme and deliver to homes and businesses in and around Bath, Bristol and Frome. The farm project works on many levels with community at the heart of the enterprise.

The Community Farm was set up as a community-owned social enterprise, growing and selling locally sourced and organic food through a box delivery service. A big part of this is to help people understand where their food comes from and reconnect with the land on which their food is grown. Hands-on experience of organic farming is offered through school visits, volunteering, away days from work, workshops and events. More than 500 local people share ownership of the farm and have a say in how it is run. 

The farm runs a popular volunteer programme to offer first-hand experience of life on an organic farm.  Community Farmer Days offer a taste of farming with adults and (supervised) children helping out in the fields. These are designed to be sociable and fun with shared lunches made by some of the volunteers.

Profits are ploughed back into a number of community projects – especially providing learning experiences for local children, adults and vulnerable people. Over the past two years the farm has taken many workers from the Bristol Drugs Project.

The farm is offers a scheme for parties of schoolchildren to visit and explore the farm. They learn about the importance of local, sustainable food production and healthy food. The children are taught about soil structure, organic pest control, the difference between organic and conventional farming and wildlife on the farm. The farm offers a haven for wildlife including skylarks, woodpeckers, lapwings, buzzards, kestrels, stoats, badgers and deer. The farm also has a market stall at Bath Farmers’ Market every Saturday, and at Keynsham Farmers’ Market on the second Saturday of each month.

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