The fabulous colours of the ripening pods of the borlotti beans added to the spectacular colours of Autumn on my short, whistle-stop visit to Five Acre Community Farm, one of the currently worried tenants of Garden Organic in the light of the charity’s proposed sale of the land. Slotted in during the visit to Ryton Gardens as just reported, big thanks are due to Becca and Gareth for accommodating me at virtually no notice!
Based at Garden Organic in Ryton, between Coventry and Rugby, Five Acre Community Farm is a small organic vegetable farm founded in early 2012 and operating as a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Scheme with its membership drawn from Coventry, Rugby and surrounds. The formal structure is that the farm is part of a company called South Warwickshire Local Foods (SWLF) Community Interest Company, or CIC – partway house between a commercial company and a charity. SWLF was set up as an umbrella organisation through which to encourage local food production and supply in South Warwickshire. The CIC runs Five Acre through the farm’s own small board of directors as a non-profit organisation with any profit going back into the company not to the directors or other stakeholders. The day-to-day operation of the farm is then through a steering group of volunteers who meet on a regular basis to make the decisions about how the farm will run. They also do most of the publicity work and organising events and so on.
In the meantime, Becca Stevenson is employed as head grower and does the all important growing, ably assisted by part-time grower or casual staff as needed. At the time of my visit, director and financial officer, Gareth Davies, was providing that support. The hands on nature of Five Acres and the CIC is very evident in Gareth’s presence, with Gareth having been instrumental in setting up the CIC and was then at the forefront of gathering people together to start the Five Acre project.
Like most CSA’s Five Acre has two types of membership, social – for anyone who wants to support the farm but does not want veg for whatever reason – and veg share – members who get a share of the harvest. Since it is a share of the harvest that is on offer, this means the size and content of the veg acquired varies over the year. Every year is different, depending on the weather, pests etc., with members thus being part of the direct impact of weather and time. A limited number of work shares are also available where members can also commit to volunteering for a few hours every week, in exchange for which they get their veg for free.
In having its roots in the local community, Five Acre is also a community in itself with regular social events such as bring and share meals, scarecrow building sessions and film shows as well as twice weekly work mornings for anyone who fancies helping out.
Current big recent news is that the team at Five Acre registered an interest in buying the land which has been its home for the last six years at Ryton Organic Gardens after the latter was put up for sale in January by Garden Organic. Five Acre is actively working on a plan to keep the land in organic production, and the aim is to increase community involvement by keeping both the farm and gardens accessible to the community, expanding the potential for education and well-being, and increasing production. If the bid is accepted, the plan is to raise the money through a community share offer, enabling the land to be protected as a community growing space for the future. Amount of interest shown by Garden Organic to date – ziltch!
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