Work around the farm and in the busy hours of our many helpers, Board members and staff has been keeping everything shipshape and Bristol fashion for Sims Hill.
On the land
The Spring planting has been going well and the new polytunnel looking an absolute delight with its leafy greens and delicious compost. We are on schedule with all of our planting so far, aiming to get all the onions out in the first week of May and the beetroot soon after. The only crop that the strange weather this year managed to spoil was the celeriac. Unexpectedly, it wasn’t the snow or the late cold snap that caused a problem, but those sudden hot days at the start of April that crisped the seedlings and overheated the crop. A shame! But nature takes as it gives, and other than that we are in good form for the summer and autumn to come.
In the shares at the moment we are managing to provide our own greens and salad leaves, but are buying in other vegetables until the “hungry gap” of April – June is over and we have our own crops ready with summer growth. We used an excellent farm near Swindon for much of our bought in veg over the winter, but they too have run out of stocks so we have had to go further afield until our own provision increases. We do our best to balance our aims of sourcing as locally as possible, from other farms who share our ethos and within a price range that means we can continue to provide members with seven vegetables each week. This gets harder as the hungry gap reduces local stocks and raises prices, but summer is around the corner so the growers are working hard on the land to make sure we can provide as much as possible ourselves as soon as the weather allows.
We are extremely proud to announce that we have reached our highest ever number of members, which is brilliant. We are providing veg for over 90 households around the city at the moment. There is always some flux and flow in member numbers as people move away or change their habits, but we hope to keep member numbers up and even grow a little bit more. Our strongest “social network” is our membership, so tell a friend about us (thumbs up sign optional) and help us strengthen our roots across the city.
Feedback from members’ meetings and ongoing discussions have raised the idea of keeping bees on the land several times over the last couple of years. Over the last few months the idea was explored in more depth, and the Board have confirmed that we will not be putting this into action. Discussions with Avon Wildlife Trust (who manage Feed Bristol) have taught us that they would rather the site encouraged solitary bees, as when honey bees are brought in they out-compete the solitary bees. You can find out more about the difference and why solitary bees are important here. On the big field, which is not shared with Feed Bristol, our lease from Bristol City Council would make sub-contracting to a beekeeper complicated, so this is also not a sensible idea. All in all, it has been useful to investigate the topic in more depth – did you know there are 267 species of bee in the UK? – so for the time being we will stay as we are, welcoming and admiring the bees that choose to buzz with us of their own accord.
Our community worker Laurie has moved away from Bristol, so her role has been taken on by Sian, who was already closely involved in the Community Food Centre which has made for a smooth hand-over. With Sian’s support we will be running a “lunchtime conversation” in June as part of Bristol Food Connections. Watch out for news and details on our Facebook page and here on the website. We are also part of the Get Growing Trail this summer which opens up community gardens and growing spaces around the city for visitors. Along with our usual volunteer work days on the 3rd Sunday of every month, it’s a busy, sociable time ahead.
Happy May day to all, let us unite as workers, eaters, producers and vegetable lovers.