This is an open members’ meeting, so please bring along any of your friends and neighbours who might be interested in learning more about Sims Hill, and especially in how we plan to move the project forward!
1. Update on growing, membership and finance
The vegetables in the glasshouse continue to flourish and yield in abundance, and we are in the process of agreeing another year of use with Feed Bristol, so that is great. The leeks, cabbages, kale, cauliflowers, and broccoli have survived that vulnerable time of being transplanted to the field, so that is a relief. On the downside, there are very few carrots and potatoes and no onions to harvest, which is serious.
It has been extremely difficult to get anything done in the field this year, which also explains why there have been no community work days – the field has been that wet.
Community celebrations have been quiet this year (our next Community Celebration is on Saturday October 13th!). We have held steady around the 40 shares (60 households) mark now for quite some time. We had planned to grow to 60 shares by July, so our income now is down against the budget. We have managed to keep our expenditure lower than budgeted so far but we have little reserves to draw on, so this is also concerning.
2. Drainage Issues on site and proposal for an integrated, resilient solution
Last winter it became apparent that there were some wet patches in the field that affected the yield and our ability to work the land. In the spring we had a lovely pond dug, since then it has been record-breakingly wet. The pond has not been able to cope, and the extent of the wet patches (both size and duration) have made the field virtually unworkable. It seems that old land drains running down the hill and under the field have been broken at some stage. We need to do something to remedy this. We could just dig some drainage ditches down the field to get water out or we could take a more integrated approach to catching, storing, using and draining water on our site that could make us more resilient to both wet and dry. The Board proposes that we get Jay Abrahams to give us a design and a quote for the integrated approach. (Jay dug the existing pond and is a trustee of the permaculture association) This would meet both an urgent need (drainage) and be a strategy that applies our commitment to permaculture principles. The integrated approach may well necessitate some adaptations to our current growing methods.
3. Proposal to develop as a Permaculture LAND centre with an apprentice scheme
As a result of facing challenges on numerous fronts, the Board spent some time considering the life of Sims Hill in the round and revisiting our principles (CSA, permaculture, and community development) in order to find a strategic solution that moves towards our overall aims as well as dealing with the immediate and diverse issues. Following this process, the board proposes to develop as a Permaculture LAND centre with an apprenticeship scheme. The apprentices would in effect accelerate putting permaculture and community development principles into practice, and increase our capacity to pursue our ecological, education and community aims. You can download the proposal here.
4. Dealing with field staples shortage this winter/spring
The two proposals above will take a few months to start to implement at the least, in the meantime we need to deal with the shortfall in stable field crops and numbers of share members. There are a number of options that might be taken that we need to discuss together in order to find a way that meets our share members needs and balance the books.