Volunteers were numerous,vigorous and – dare I say it – vociferous on the morning I visited Canalside Community Food and took part in the annual squash harvesting. It was a colourful and inspiring experience.
Canalside Community Food is a Community Supported Agriculture scheme serving people in the Leamington and Warwick and nearby towns and villages, including Radford Semele, Kenilworth, Southam. The scheme leases 7 acres of open land at Leasowe Farm, a family-run farm adjacent to the Grand Union Canal outside Radford Semele, plus 7 large polytunnels to assist year-round production. Through this resource it provides weekly shares of organic vegetables, and organic fruit when in season, to its 150 or so members.
Members are encouraged to help through a membership scheme which will exchange voluntary work for reduced membership fee with workshare volunteers giving half a day’s work each week to help with a wide variety of tasks – weeding, planting, harvesting, maintenance and generally anything which needs doing!
Would you believe that such is the enthusiasm, Canalside operates a waiting list for workshare spaces, with the waiting, according to the farm website, being 6 to 18 months! Not surprising then that much bantering and good fun was had as the squashes were gradually loaded up on the trailer, taken to the farm HQ and set out for ‘curing’ in one of the polytunnels. (Once cured the squash are moved to a mega-insulated store room which sees them last through the winter)
At the time of the visit, Will Johnson was the head grower. He is one of several young people around the country who have graduated through Soil Association Apprenticeships at Coleshill Organics which I had visited a few days earlier. The work of the grower and the farm is overseen by a small but committed group of people, the original core of whom have been meeting since the Summer 2005. They are a diverse group, ranging from farmers to organic researchers to teachers, but all share strong beliefs in local food and community empowerment.
While Leasowe Farm as a whole system has not been specifically designed according to permaculture principles, the Ingall family have a strong passion for this approach to land use and try to integrate many permaculture practices. Food, community, and an innate sense of well-being coming from a strong connection to the land are essential elements in how they view their stewardship of this tiny corner of the Warwickshire landscape. Why oh, why oh why cant the majority of farming be like this!!!
[Double clicking on any of the images below will open up that image up in a slideshow format. You can then run the slide show using ‘left’ and ‘right’ buttons. Personally I prefer to go also to full screen having opened the slide show – F11 on my PC, don’t forget to get out of full screen is the same button , not ESC]