Below is a high-level view of our efforts for 2017 and what we hope to achieve. We use themes to give overall guidance to our day to day planning. We have some themes that relate to our maturing as an organisation and others that we would like to explore if we have time and resources.
As an organisation we are entering our third full year. We have identified themes around our maturing and use them to describe our core activities and the things we want to achieve this year.
Scaling up sales of produce
2016 was like an apprenticeship in growing vegetables. In 2015 we had been clearing the nettles and brambles over the majority of the site. Then last year we identified our growing beds and had our first go at growing significant quantities of annual plants like beans and lettuces. This year we are planning to produce a significant range and quantity of fresh produce and develop markets for it. We will be selling directly to local residents from our own covered stall (built summer 2016). We will also be selling to local green grocers such as the Veg Shed, who bought a significant quantity of beetroots from us at the end of the 2016 season.
Increasing staffing levels to support growth
In order to support this scaled up production of fruit and veg we need to ensure we have sufficient staff resources to plan and oversee the work. The development of the farm over the last 2 years has been made possible by our staff members Adam and Richard who are each paid for 0.5 day per week, totaling 0.2 full time equivalent (FTE) but who have voluntarily worked an additional 1.5 days and 4.5 days each week respectively (total of 1.4 FTE). Due to changes in Adam’s family commitments he needs 3 days paid work per week from March 2017. This increase in his availability fits with our increased need for his time. As our income from produce and on-site activities is growing we are seeking to pay Adam and Richard for the days they each work on the farm (total of 1.6 FTE)
Developing team leader volunteers
Since October 2016 we have been opening the farm every Saturday to sell produce and to facilitate volunteer sessions. Before this time we were only open for sales during the day on Wednesday and Friday and for volunteering on Thursdays and Fridays. The Saturday sessions are gaining in popularity, with good turn out even in January 2017. This is increasing our customer base and gaining us new volunteers. Because we are open on Saturdays we have also been able to host Bike2Basics, a social enterprise offering a bike doctor clinic. Besides giving us a small venue hire income this is adding to the numbers of visitors to the farm and providing a very good service to local residents. It is Richard who takes the main responsibility for staffing Saturdays. For Saturdays to be sustainable we need to develop Team Leader Volunteers who can take charge on Saturdays when Richard is not available.
Improving basic amenities
We want to increase involvement on the farm – to do this we need to provide better toilets, hand-washing and social spaces on the farm. We need our own electricity supply and drinking water supply. We want to make our own compost-based toilet system rather than using the outside toilet on the house next door. We need a hand-wash area that can cope with groups, rather than using the outside toilet on the house next door. We need to increase our solar panel and battery system so we can have comprehensive lighting in the barn that is reliable on darker days. We would like to have a washing up facility for clearing away our tea and coffee and lunch crockery (currently Richard takes it back to his home and washes up there in the evening).
Encouraging more local involvement
We will continue reaching out to the local community to increase the number of people benefiting from the farm. We will continue to welcome visitors when the shop is open. We will hold open days on the bank holidays throughout the year. And we will start a new weekly group for parents/carers and pre-school children.
Providing educational opportunities
We are going to create opportunities to encourage local residents to learn from activities on the farm and develop their own food-producing skills at home. We will devise a range of workshops where people can come and try their hand at growing food. We will provide practical support for growing at home – such as seedlings and containers to take home. We also want school children to visit us and learn first hand about sustainable food production.
Bringing all the site into use
We have three spaces still to be cleared for use. First there is an area of scrub earmarked for our second compost bay area. Secondly there is an area of old pig sties with willow and laurel growing out of it that we want to clear so we can use it for storage. Finally there is a large mass of concrete hard standing at the heart of the site which we would like to remove to make space for growing beds. This is a considerable undertaking.
These themes describe the things we are hoping to explore in order to develop our future capabilities.
- Office. Richard and Adam do not have a permanent dry and warm place to carry out the administrative and planning tasks necessary for running the farm. We will evaluate alternatives for creating this space on the farm.
- Learning space and kitchen. Central to our plans for increasing income is the need for a teaching space for workshops, which would include a kitchen for preparing refreshments and a place to eat lunch. We would also use the kitchen for preserving produce, preparing food for volunteers and for serving refreshments at the shop.
- Aquaponics. In September 2016 we had a Business in the Community day which included some investment in purchasing equipment for growing fish and plants in an inter-connected system. We are modifying and developing this system and will see how productive it can be.
- Mushroom logs. We can grow mushrooms on logs. When we get fresh logs we can inoculate them and leave them in a damp and cool place and after a few months we get a harvest of mushrooms to sell. This is something to start doing this year.
- Extra land. We are at the stage when we could consider using more land. We will be looking into what could be possible regards using more of the land in the valley.
These are the headline actions arising from our themes.
- Plan and execute vegetable production.
- Develop our budgets to pay Adam 3 days per week and Richard 5 days per week.
- Recruit and train Team Leader Volunteers to lead Saturday sessions.
- Get quotes for electricity supply and mains water connection; develop a plan for toilets, hand-wash, lighting, washing-up and seating for groups of 15-20.
- Plan open days; plan a parent and toddler group.
- Develop a plan for hosting workshops at the farm.
- Clear second compost bay site and make compost bays; clear willows and laurel from old pig sties; break up and remove concrete from the main yard.
Richard Pitt / Adam Brown
01 February 2017