Archive for April, 2019

April 23, 2019

Plastic-free farming

Plastic use

At Sims Hill we are always concerned to be as sustainable as possible. We take the following steps to reduce our plastic use:

  • No buying plastic bags for shares. We use either cotton/jute bags or net bags. The net bags are made of plastic but we are reusing the ones we receive from wholesalers to reduce our waste on the site, we do not buy these. We ask members to return their bags (net or cotton) so that we are always reusing these bags in a happy circular bag economy.
  • No bags on robust vegetables, which make up the majority of our crops. Veg like potatoes, cabbage, onions, carrots and other root veg come well protected by nature, we don’t need to add any extra packaging to them.
  • And most importantly: as a local Community Supported Agriculture scheme we are only producing the food each week that our members are actually going to take home. We are not stocking up shelves with food that will be put in the bin or go off before it even reaches someone’s home. This means we use massively less plastic than a supermarket – even the ones with “plastic free” sections.

Why are we not entirely “plastic free”?

We fully support the movement to go entirely zero-waste, and we are doing everything we can to reduce our plastic use in all aspects of the farm. However, as of Spring 2019 we still use “normal” plastic bags for our salad and delicate leaves. We have researched and tested various solutions, and are always looking for new ideas. At the moment this is what we have found.

Proposal 1: No bags.

If we didn’t use plastic bags for delicate green leaves (e.g. leaving them loose in crates), we have found that they go off too quickly and then are wasted. No one wants to turn up for their vegetables and find a big tray of squelchy compost or unsalvageable shriveled leaves – and this will happen within hours with the warm but damp conditions so common in our lovely south west. Food waste is also an enormous issue and massively damages the environment by wasting the work of the land.

Proposal 2: Paper bags.

We have also tested this, but the same issue of leaf deterioration occurs. We don’t want to be handing out bags of “pre-composted” salad leaves after we have worked so hard in the polytunnels to grow them!

Proposal 3: Recycle plastic bags from members.

Unfortunately, as a business we can’t reuse small plastic bags because of health and safety regulations. We simply aren’t allowed, as there could be a build up of dangerous bacteria and we do not want to harm the health of our members. We strongly encourage members to reuse the bags at home themselves, but as a business we are not allowed to do this.

Proposal 4: “Degradable” plastic bags.

Our farm manager James has done a lot of research on the newer alternatives to plastics, including speaking to council waste managers. “Degradable” plastic is currently not actually composted by local councils as their facilities cannot manage it. The material, although technically degradable, takes a long time to compost in a home composting system as the conditions are not right. So even though they are labelled as “degradable” they will not actually be degrading. They are also significantly more expensive than “normal” plastic bags.

Proposal 5: “Compostable” plastic bags.

Similar issues face “compostable” bags – they are not always composted by council sites or suitable for reasonable home composting. (See here for a BBC report on the issue in Wales). Also, at the moment “compostable” bags are sometimes made from sources that are themselves unsustainable or compete with food for land use. We do not want to be deforesting land in the sake of appearing more green. They are also often three times more expensive than “normal” plastic bags.

We think that in the near future, “compostable” plastic bags will become a viable alternative. We are actively keeping a look out for a good source of compostable plastic bags that come from forestry by-products so they are recycling a waste product, not competing for land. We will transition as soon as we find a source that is affordable and meets these sustainability criteria. We know other organisations locally and nationally are facing similar quandaries, so hopefully it is something that the sector can solve soon.

Proposal 6: “Normal” plastic bags.

So, we are stuck with “normal” bags for the moment. Our approach is:

  • Only use them when absolutely necessary. Delicate salad and green leaves that will not survive without protection.
  • Only package the number of leaves required each week. This is a massively important part of reducing waste, and a huge benefit from being a community veg delivery scheme rather than a supermarket.
  • Encourage our members to reuse the plastic bags they receive at home.
  • Support the “eco-brick” initiative. This initiative gives some confidence that the plastic is not going to end up in landfill. See a video on how to make them and check out local organisation “Bricking it” to find your nearest drop off point.
  • As a last resort, the “normal” plastic bags we currently use can be recycled at supermarket recycling points. However, it is difficult to know where this plastic ends up so we encourage members to do their own reuse actions or eco-bricks and consider this as a final resort.

Here’s hoping and acting for a plastic-free future for all of us and the earth.

 

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April 8, 2019

Seasonal Trainee Grower

Job Title: Seasonal Trainee Grower – Sims Hill Shared Harvest, Bristol

Work Hours: 2 days a week by negotiation (8 hours per day)

Duration of post: 23 weeks starting in May

Pay rate: £8.21/hour

Closing date for applications: 19th April 2019

Interviews: week commencing 22nd April 2019

Sims Hill Shared Harvest is a Community Supported Agriculture cooperative based in Frenchay on the edge of Bristol. We are seeking applicants for the post of Seasonal Trainee Grower to assist our Farm Manager and Assistant Grower team during the busier summer months.

Sims Hill Shared Harvest grows mixed vegetables for around 120 members who each receive a weekly veg share throughout the year. Our vegetables are grown using organic standards across 3 acres of cultivated field space and 5 polytunnels. The growing area is split across the Sims Hill site and some space at the nearby Feed Bristol project which is run by Avon Wildlife Trust.

This post will suit someone looking to develop their skills as a market gardener/veg grower in a community setting. The trainee will work alongside the current growing team with a focus on teaching the trainee a broad range of skills associated with growing vegetables on this scale. They will be required to work with and supervise volunteers at times. There may be an occasional need to work alone and also carry out watering tasks some weekends.

Duties and Learning Objectives:

  • Seed propagation from sowing to transplanting
  • Organic weed, pest and disease management
  • Addressing plant needs for irrigation and nutrients
  • Harvesting produce using agreed methods and ensuring quality control
  • Preparing produce for the shares
  • Weighing, packaging and organising for distribution
  • Working together with and leading tasks for members and volunteers
  • Ensuring safety on site and best practices are maintained

Person Specification:

Essential:

  • Interest in sustainable food production and the desire to put that interest into practice
  • Some experience of vegetable growing
  • Ability to communicate well and explain tasks to others
  • Willingness to work outdoors in all weathers
  • Ability to work within a team
  • Ability to work on own initiative, prioritise tasks and work to deadlines

Desirable:

  • Experience of working with volunteers

Please apply in writing including a cover letter and CV to simshillgrowers@mail.com

.More about Sims Hill Shared Harvest: http://simshill.co.uk

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