Thursday 27 July 2017

Five Acre Community Farm

Yesterday I spent a really interesting day at Five Acre Community Farm near Coventry. 
Where the shares are placed and everyone helps themselves
In wanting to expand what I do here I want to get as much training and tuition as possible so I applied to the CSA Network for some mentoring as a veg box scheme really appeals to me and having it in the model of community supported agriculture as they do in the states looks like a really interesting way of doing things. 
During the day I picked up some great tips, got to see organic growing practices on a larger scale and talk to really interesting people who are doing this day in and day out.
I had many (and I mean many) questions about how it's run, how the financing works, and what the smallest they thought I could go with it was. To provide produce for 12 months of the year is tricky just for yourself but to do it for others (who are paying) is even harder, they provide 60 full shares each week off this plot. 

Hardening off area outside the poly tunnel
It was really interesting hearing what worked for them, what people like to see each week, what they see too much of and how they like to get it - the share holders here bag their own produce from a central area. They also have some work shares as well where you can do work for some or all of your share, they were telling me they even had one guy in the past who would help maintain the tractor for his.

The one tunnel with peppers, aubergines and some cucs down the middle

Leeks being dug up and trimmed to transplant outside

Over wintered onions being dried after harvest

Tomatoes on one half of the tunnel
 It was also really interesting seeing how this all worked out int he field, I was expecting to see clean beds, but there was some quiet strong weed pressure, which I think is going to be there with organic growing. The amount of veg in the beds spoke for itself though, there was plenty of it and it all look good.
The beds had been set out to be easily worked by a tractor that they use for cultivation.
Although some quiet high weed pressure there is so much veg on this 5 acres! Here's the squash area.

Soft fruit, done as a pick your own for the CSA members that want it. Strawberries and blackcurrants
 Weed membrane was used in places and around the soft fruit it was really effective, something I'll be copying here over winter.
The plastic seems to work really well for the soft fruit and it's something I'll be trying

Dwarf ballotti beans for drying to be added to shares in the hungry gap
 Anther thing I found really interesting was how they provide a share during the hungry gap. using a mixture of stored crops (onions, squashes, roots), some dried beans as well as potted herbs. They were also experimenting with quinoa as something that could be given out during the leaner months.
Nets are used to keep some pests off, mainly on roots and on brassicas 

Green manures on fallow areas to build soil fertility
 Maintaining soil fertility with green manures was also really important to them and I got given some great ideas down this line, my use of green manures is something that really needs to improve!
Trimmed leeks just transplanted

Showing an area of netted produce, all rows are 70m long
To see a small farm in operation is always great, to see one that can pay staff a reasonable wage and be viable is even better. These guys were really passionate about what they were doing and how they were doing it and I certainly came away feeling that I could make something on a smaller scale work here for me. Lots of planning and prep will be needed!

Thanks again to Gareth, Becka and Hannah for your time yesterday! I hope I didn't ask too many questions!

I'm wondering if a mix of CSA shares as well as restaurant sales might be the way to go, that way I spread my risk and I might get interest from both sides of things. then again I might be mad to consider it at all!


  1. Have you seen Justin Rhodes on you tube. He is doing a farm tour in the states.

    1. Yes! We watch him every night after tea at my daughters insistence. I've picked up some great ideas from it and was recommending it to the guys at this farm yesterday.

  2. It all sounds fantastic just how communities should work together.

    1. It would be great if there was more CSA's starting up, that's why I'm really tempted to start a small one here and do veg for restaurants as well, I think I'd find the mix really interesting.

  3. As a matter of interest Kev, how much of the 5 acres was under cultivation?

    1. All of it, although it was cultivated with tractors so turning space was at the ends of the 11 beds they had set up.

  4. I notice a lot of organic farms live with the weeds and probably use them for green manure. Have you not thought of making a market stall (you have the carpentry skills) and selling your produce outside your house Kev?

    1. I like the CSA model because I'd know I have sales lined up and these people would be interested in what I'm doing. Having that guarantee each week would be essential to it becoming part of my income. Our house is down a quiet road as well so little chance for many sales, it's okay for eggs but even that can be a bit hit and miss and I just tend to sell them to people I know now in the village.

  5. You are very lucky to live in an area with resources like this, it seems like there is good community support for new growers. What a relief to see weeds in a professional operation! I'm sure that made a bunch of readers besides me feel better about their own weeds.

    1. This was a couple of hours from me but I agree it's great to be supported like this. I'm hoping to spend a bit of time on a market garden north from here as well from someone I visited last year. The more I can learn from everyone else the better.
      I'll show you some of the weeds here, that'll amek you feel better I can assure you!

  6. The blog are the best that is extremely useful to keep.
    I can share the ideas of the future as this is really what I was looking for,
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  7. Sounds a really interesting visit. Much to learn. I would have loved to have more like-minded people living near us so that we could share skills and produce.


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