Ropsley Market Garden CSA

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a partnership between farmers and their local community, in which the responsibilities, risks and rewards of farming are shared. 

communitysupportedagriculture.org.uk

Ropsley Market Garden is Lincolnshire’s first CSA – the first of many: the English CSA moment is now here: people increasingly recognise the need for sustainable, resilient, healthy, local food, and the power we have in community to provide for ourselves and each other. 

What is Community Supported Agriculture?

Community Supported Agriculture – a CSA – is a farm run in partnership with its local community. 

This approach allows farmers and (so-called) consumers to support each other – but thinking of ourselves as consumers is immensely dis-empowering. It’s time to start thinking of ourselves as food citizens, with a part to play in our food system. (Read more about Food Citizenship here

https://communitysupportedagriculture.org.uk/

Increasing participation in our food system

The dominant narrative in the UK food and farming sector today is that as individuals we are merely consumers at the end of a food chain. Daily messages tell us that being a consumer is our only source of power to influence society as a whole and, specifically, our food system. Our role is to choose between products and services, not to participate in the systems that provide us with our food. We become demotivated and cut off from the food we eat. 

…The problem is not that we don’t care, but that we feel powerless to act. And when we feel powerless, we are more likely to blame others, shift responsibility onto them and ignore our own impacts. The reason for this feeling of powerlessness? The fact that we’re treated as consumers, not citizens.

Harnessing the Power of Food Citizenship, Report by the Food Ethics Council, 2019 – https://foodcitizenship.info/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/fec_food_citizenship_report_final.pdf

CSA members have a direct connection to the production of food. Their involvement goes beyond a market exchange, and can include participation in growing, skills exchange or gift economy; farms have a stable, reliable foundation in their community.

The pandemic has shaken us to the core. And now people are determined to build back better.

The journey to establishing a CSA

Jemma – the manager of Heath Farm, a 9-bedroom holiday home – quickly struck up positive connections with the Ropsley community when she took up residency at the farm a few years ago. 

At first she sold her hens’ eggs to residents in Ropsley, and during the pandemic, gave them away to those who needed them.

Although her grandfather and her father (at least during his teenage years) were farmers, Jemma only got into growing food a few years ago. She found that growing veg at the side of the road got people talking. 

Today, she is passionate about both growing food, and community connection. So starting a CSA was a natural development.

Her positive relationship with the landowner led to being able to lease a piece of land at an affordable rate. This is not (yet) a straightforward thing for landowners to do, and so the relationship of trust and goodwill has been essential. 

Farming for the future

The plan for the Ropsley Market Garden is to grow vegetables, salad, edible herbs and flowers, and in due course, to create jobs and livelihoods for local people. The scheme will be financially sustainable, and there is the option to expand and take on more land in future.

The market garden will be managed on agroecological principles that both support and mimic nature, and includes techniques such as under-cropping, interplanting and agroforestry. These methods reduce or eliminate the need to till the soil, and for artificial fertilisers and pesticides. 

Agroecological design creates food systems that are healthier and more resilient, where wildlife and people can thrive alongside each other.

Community involvement

Even before the first veggies are in the ground, 12 members have already signed up for the scheme, and the Ropsley Market Garden has the support and buy-in of the local community. 

For example, Jemma is already working with Growing Together Grantham, a community food-growing group, an online farmers’ market, and there are plans afoot to team up with villagers to include their home grown produce, such as chillis.

Undeterred by the limitations imposed by the lockdown, Jemma has organised The Great Village Seed Start – in which local residents can get involved by sowing seeds in their greenhouses and on windowsills, which will later be planted out in the market garden. 

This is a way for almost anyone to participate in their CSA, and an expression of the support and interest that it has already generated in the village.

The village pub, which has been offering hot meals to vulnerable people in the local community during the pandemic, will be able to use Ropsley Market Garden produce, as will the local cafe. 

Fresh contributions will be made to the local foodbank, and offered as fundraising for the school.

How to get involved

Jemma welcomes people to get involved with the project – both from the local community and further afield. Those with little or no experience are welcome to come and learn, and those with prior experience are encouraged to come and pass on their knowledge and skills. After the pandemic, Jemma will also be welcoming WWOOFers and residential volunteers.

Volunteering is not the only way to support the project. Maybe you can offer green waste, seeds, machinery or materials that can be up-cycled?

To find out more, please visit Ropsley Market Garden’s Facebook page, and email to pre-arrange any visits, so careful arrangements can be made under the circumstances of the pandemic.

For more about CSAs – and how to set one up, check out communitysupportedagriculture.org.uk

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Willoughby Road Allotment Association: The Power of Allotments for Community, Kindness and Learning

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Food and farming policy – Money in the till?

For much of the post-Second World War period, we’ve paid farmers to produce food. We’ve had many different policies with complicated names and at times they’ve led to curious outcomes. We’ve had massive food surpluses in some foods but continue to import others (we import nearly half the food we consume in the UK – and rising).

We’ve even paid farmers to produce surpluses and then paid them again to dispose of them. 

From 1988 we had so much surplus food, that we began to pay farmers not to grow it through a policy called Set-aside: we had a huge land surplus in agriculture as we paid farmers not to use it. 

In 2003, we stopped paying farmers to produce food. What became known as the Basic Payment Scheme paid them for the amount of land they held (whether it actually produced any food or not). The more land you had the more money you got: the rich got richer. 

By 2020 the Agriculture Act abandoned all of this in favour of paying farmers to produce ‘public goods’ – which at the time of writing are yet to be defined but seem destined to be largely environmental.  

Faith and the Environment

Food and Agriculture

One fundamental flaw in all of this has never really been addressed. These policies are about agriculture, rather than about food. The UK would really benefit from an holistic food policy that sees food as a basic necessity, rather than just a market commodity.

The truth of this has been highlighted recently with the introduction of a raft of uncoordinated policies about food, all introduced whilst the Agriculture Act 2020 was wending its way through Parliament.

Disconnected strategies

The Government’s National Obesity Strategy was launched in July to tackle the largest long-term national health challenge: nearly two-thirds of adults are above a healthy weight as is one in three primary school leavers. This would seem a central plank of food policy. Avoiding obesity would be a great ‘public good’ to have in any Agriculture Act.  

The National Food Strategy (Part 1) also came out in July, aimed at addressing food poverty, particularly amongst our most disadvantaged children. It also addressed the need to improve food quality. Both of these also sound like great ‘public goods’ to have in an Agriculture Act.

You’ll remember too, our fleeting Eat Out to Help Out policy to help food outlets after the first COVID lockdown. Monitoring suggests that 50% discounts on food were most popular in the ‘high fats, sugars and salts’ (causes of obesity) sector (those American fast-food chains, for example) and many ate more (because it was half price) than spent less. Eat Out to Help Out had the opposite outcomes than those intended in the obesity strategy. 

A national food policy?

All of these policies remain uncoordinated. A national food policy that ‘followed the science’ would help us to pursue nutritional goals, obesity goals, environmental goals, ‘local food’ goals and economic goals simultaneously.

This is likely to cost less for the State too, both in respect of farm support, but also in terms of savings to the National Health Service through improving our diets – as well as protecting the environment.

Let’s hope that these ‘public good’ aspects of food will find their way into the detail of the Agriculture Act, 2020.

Nigel Curry – 2021

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HMP North Sea Camp

Farms need people.

Fewer EU workers and the Covid-19 pandemic have left a gaping hole in the number of agricultural land workers.

HMP North Sea Camp – a men’s open prison on the Lincolnshire coast – provides training and work experience to prisoners, including agricultural, horticultural and other food-related work.

This presents a particular opportunity for Lincolnshire employers in the food and farming sector to contribute powerfully to the future of prison leavers as well as increasing the safety of our communities in the future.

EcoSerenity Project CIC

A Community Farm Project for Better Mental Health How would you respond, if your day to day work brought you regularly in contact with people at the farthest ebb of their mental health, maybe even on the precipice of suicide? Andy, in his work at a local landmark, deals regularly with emotionally distressed individuals.   HisContinue reading “EcoSerenity Project CIC”

Connecting with Your Council on Community Growing Projects

Kate Bell, Climate Change Manager for City of Lincoln Council, and Matthew Davey, Environment & Community Projects Officer for Lincolnshire County Council, talked with us about the council’s engagement with local communities and their growing projects, with lots of useful information and tips on how to how to find out more and get involved.

In case you missed the online event, Connecting with Your Council on Community Growing Projects, here are the presentations that you can download, and some notes and actions arising from the session.

Useful links that arose from Kate’s and Matthew’s presentations:

What next?

Let us know what support is needed for community growing, and how Lincolnshire Food Partnership can help:

Five questions for people who live in St Giles area of Lincoln:

Find out more/sign up for Introduction to Care Farming: 


Map your community growing space, or find out what’s growing near you:

Believe in the power of small actions

It’s the first day of Spring – sow some seeds for 2021: Start them on your windowsill, and give any spare plants to your nearest community garden or neighbour!

seedcooperative.org.uk

Thank you to you

There is just one online session left for this winter – thanks for joining us over recent months, and for your actions in 2021 as we enter the growing season. Thank you to our speakers Kate and Matthew, for sharing your stuff, for the support you offer, and for being instrumental in positive change; thank you, if you are the one to make things start to happen in your local area, or support an existing project, or act to protect a site that will be needed by future generations; thank you if you add a community growing pin to the map; thank you if you’re barely holding it together right now and the most you can do is care for one plant at home – you’re not alone! Thank you for showing up, and starting to imagine a different future. And thank you to the dedicated home-educators and volunteers who keep growing projects alive week after week even through lockdown; and thank you to you if you drop in even though you wish you could do more, amid the busyness of your life, and know that you are always, always welcome.


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Introduction to Care Farming

What is Care Farming?

Care Farming is the therapeutic use of gardening and farming practices – where service users regularly attend the care farm as part of a structured health or social care, rehabilitation or specialist educational programme.

The powerful mix of being in nature, being part of a group and taking part in meaningful nature based activities is what makes care farming so successful.

Care Farms deliver a range of farming-related activities as part of their service provision, including care of livestock, growing crops and vegetables, horticulture and land management.

What’s involved in Care Farming, and how to start a Care Farm

Deborah Evans is Regional Care Farm Manager at Social Farms & Gardens, and has been involved in the Care Farming sector for over 15 years:

Care Farming in Lincolnshire: Hall Farm, Eastoft

Mark Coulman set up a Care Farm on his Lincolnshire farm in 2017. Hall Farm Eastoft operates in partnership with the working farm which supplies potatoes, cereals and high welfare pork into the UK food industry.

Their person-centred education and care activities are centred around their kitchen garden, an orchard, a chicken & bantam flock, a small alpaca herd and 2 bee hives; everyone can get involved in every aspect of managing this.

In this video, Mark explains how it works at Hall Farm; and what he’s learnt from running a Care Farm in Lincolnshire.

Social Farms & Gardens

Social Farms & Gardens is a UK wide charity supporting communities to farm, garden and grow together, improving the health and wellbeing of individuals, communities and the environment through nature-based activities.

Many people assume that community gardens and city or care farms are just nice places to visit where plants are grown and animals kept. But that is far from the whole picture.

Many of them also offer an amazing array of benefits and opportunities, which can include education programmes, play schemes, healthy living initiatives, work and skills training, social enterprises, volunteer opportunities, environmental schemes, horticultural therapy groups, facilities for people with disabilities…and more.

There’s a huge amount of scope for increasing Care Farming in Lincolnshire; the value of doing real, meaningful work on a Care Farm to someone’s health and well being can be life-changing. If you feel this is something that you could offer to adults or children in Lincolnshire, please find out more by contacting:

Deborah Evans, Regional Care Farming Manager: carefarming@farmgarden.org.uk

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Foodbanks distribute airline surplus

As more flights are cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, thousands of airline meals are also going to waste.

Foodbank volunteers distribute surplus airline meals

photo: Eudaimonia – Grantham Foodbank

To address this, the Lincolnshire Food Partnership has been working with Lincolnshire foodbanks and community larders to make sure this surplus of food reaches those who need it.

photo: Eudaimonia – Crowland Community Larder

Volunteers from fifteen foodbanks across Lincolnshire, have played a huge part in storing and distributing thousands of frozen airline meals to people facing food insecurity in the run up to Christmas.

This month, a further pallet of over 1000 meals is being shared among nine foodbanks across our county.

Eudaimonia flies above and beyond for Lincolnshire foodbanks

Photo: Eudaimonia – Second Helpings

The entire operation stems from the kindness, van-driving and logistical agility of our friends and Food Partners at Eudaimonia in Gainsborough, who have kindly used their freezer vehicles to collect and distribute the meals across the county.

Such an impressive feat of flexibility and co-operation cannot be understated, especially under the current circumstances!

So to all those involved – thank you!

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