Archive for ‘News’

March 5, 2019

Spring news from the farm

At our AGM in February we talked through lots of different things that are happening for Sims Hill, and took some collective decisions. Just some of the things we discussed were:

  • An update on the Park and Ride situation
  • Growing the farm
  • A new traineeship at Sims Hill
  • The future of the Community Food Centre
  • Share price structure
  • Plastic use
  • New Board members
  • The 2018 budget

Read on to find out more, or download the full minutes of the meeting.

Park and Ride

We are very pleased with the support we received during the consultation. Bristol City Council said during the consultation that they don’t want it to be built on our land, and two local MPs are supporting us as well as great support from other local groups and individuals. Until the four unitary authorities (local councils) confirm the next stages of the plan we will not know for sure that the proposed P&R has been moved elsewhere. All the responses are being collated by the councils and should be reported in around May. We are in a strong position, but we need to wait and see what happens next.

Growing the farm

We are sending out around 76.5 “full share equivalents” each week at the moment – that means about 120 households receive our veg each week which is great. We are on target for our plans, and would like this number to be slightly higher by the end of 2019.

Our tractor is currently waiting to be repaired, so we are very grateful to David (a local farmer and supporter of Sims Hill) for continuing to lend us his tractor in the meantime.

A new traineeship at Sims Hill

We want to have a 2-day a week role over the summer for someone who wants to increase their commercial growing skills and experience. Expanding our growing team capacity will mean we are able to increase our crop outputs, and so provide for more households and longer into the winter months from our own stocks.

We require around £3k as a minimum to be able to make the traineeship a paid position. We haven’t got enough money this year to pay someone from our income, but the growing team feel confident that we could increase capacity this year enough to fund the post through our income next year. Over the past few months we have applied for a few grants but not been successful. We will launch a crowdfunder in March to generate this money. Anyone interested in helping, please get in touch via email or social media.

The future of the Community Food Centre

The Community Food Centre has run since 2016. It is coordinated every Thursday by our community worker, Sian, at the Feed Bristol part of the site. The Community Food Centre is a chance for people who might be in food poverty, and/or who experience social isolation or health issues, and who would benefit from being in a small group where they can be in nature, learn cooking skills, enjoy being in a positive group of people. We have a positive evaluation of the impact it has had on people’s lives.

We need funding to cover the project running costs for the project worker, rent to Feed Bristol, cost of providing shares, cooking staples for the lunch. Some time for our growers has also been paid, as they also put time into the project.

The funding that supported the Centre from 2016-2018 has finished. We are writing applications for large grants (£20,000-60,000) to continue the project. In the meantime, for Q1 (Jan-March 2019) we have had a private donor and Sims Hill reserves to cover the costs. For Q2 (April- June 2019) we currently have a smaller amount of donations to cover the expenses. As a consequence, at the AGM members agreed that we spend £2007 for Q2 from the Sims Hill reserves, but also encourage private donations to help cover the costs so that we are not using up as much project reserves.

We agreed that it will not be sustainable to continue running the Community Food Centre only with short term donations beyond Q2, but will keep looking for long term funding even if we have to stop the Centre. This may include partnerships with other organisations who can support the bidding process. If anyone is interested in helping with fund raising and grant writing (with experience, or to develop your own skills) please get in touch by email or on social media.

Anyone who feels able to contribute to help cover the costs of the Community Food Centre in Q2 can make a transfer to the Sims Hill bank account. Please mark your transfer with “donation”.

Our account details: Sims Hill Shared Harvest

The Co-operative Bank        Sort Code 08-92-99      Account number 65406791

Share price structure

At the last meeting, members agreed that the Board can raise the price of shares in 2019 if it is necessary to cover costs. If we do increase the share price, could we offer any concessionary share prices to make sure people aren’t priced out? In response this suggestion, Board members and Julian, a member (but see below!), have done a scoping project.

As part of the project we thought about a two-tiered pricing structure. To do this, we would need some people to be subsidising the cheaper shares and be confident in our margins so that we were not losing money through this process. We are not currently in a position to reduce the price of any shares to a lower concessionary rate as we are not making a significant profit on the price.

A different way to fund concessions and build up the project more generally is to have more “supporter” members (who don’t receive vegetables, they just donate to the project). We would like to make a push for more supporter members and Board members plan to focus more on that in the summer once the traineeship crowdfunder is over.

Plastic use

We have had a few requests and questions from members about going entirely plastic-free. We have already stopped buying any new plastic bags for shares – all are now recycled wholesale nets or material bags.

We still use single-use plastic bags for our salad, etc. If we didn’t use plastic bags for green leaves (e.g. using paper bags or leaving them loose in crates), they would go off too quickly and then are wasted, which is also bad for the environment. We can’t reuse the “normal” plastic bags we use at the moment because of health and safety regulations.

The “normal” plastic bags we currently use can be recycled at supermarket recycling points but it is difficult to know where this plastic ends up. There are different plastic options such as degradable or compostable, but they are more expensive and have their own issues. “Degradable” plastic is currently not actually composted by local councils as their facilities cannot manage it. They take a long time to compost in a home composting system as the conditions are not right for them. “Compostable” bags are sometimes made from sources that are themselves unsustainable or compete with food for land use.

We would like to find 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 try to transition to degradable single-use plastic for the salads when 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.

New Board members

Steve Hobbs and Kirsty Philbrick stepped down from the Board this year. Thanks to both for their hard work, thoughtfulness and practical help during their time on the Board.

At  the AGM, two new Board members were elected: Julian Harrison and Julia Nichols. Julian is interested in supporting our financial planning, Julia is keen to support our social activities through events and building a stronger community for members. You can see more about them on our “Team” page. Remaining Board members are Damien Phillips, James Miller, Freya Widdicombe, Kristin Sponsler, Simone Osborn and Corra Boushel (Chair).

The 2018 budget

Our 2018 accounts have been prepared by our accountant and our turnover was around £47,000. The balance for the year including the veg business – as well as the cost of the Community Food Centre and grant income – was £1520. This is good news for the project, as we are growing year on year even with difficulties like the drought of the summer.

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December 26, 2018

Stop Sims Hill being turned into a car park!

 

***Read an update on the campaign HERE***

 

Original post:

We got some bad news for Christmas, unfortunately.

We need your urgent help – we have until the 7th January 2019 to make our voices heard. Members, friends and anyone who values what we do and what we stand for, please submit a response!

The West of England (WoE) local authorities are looking at sites for a Park & Ride on the M32. They say they found 17 possible sites, but they have already ruled out 16 of them. The only site left on their list is Sims Hill (see p.40-42 in the WoE Joint Spatial Plan Emerging Findings Transport Report document). Our “Big Field” that you can see from the M32 is named as unlucky “option 13”. They want to kick us out and pave us over!

The public consultation is open until 7th January 2019. We are asking friends, members and networks to please send in a response. At the end of this page is a longer and extremely helpful response drafted by the Bristol Food Network (thank you BFN!) with more detailed information.

 

How to respond

This is the most straightforward way we have found (!) to manage the West of England website.

  1. Register as a respondent with WoE consultation – sorry, but they won’t let you respond otherwise.
  2. WECA will send you an email with a link to the site to set your password (check your junk mail folder if you don’t get an email).
  3. Go back to this page and click “add comment” then “continue” to log in and add your comment.
  4. Tell them your thoughts on the suggestion of building a car park on the Sims Hill field, and try to name the document where the Sims Hill proposal is mentioned: WED 008 Emerging Findings Transport Report (Nov 2018) pp.40-42

Also tell your local Councillor

Please also copy your text and email your local councillor(s) (and the Bristol Mayor if you are a Bristol resident, by copying in mayor@bristol.gov.uk ) telling them that you are trying to respond to this consultation – they will be able to influence the decisions of the West of England, so it’s vital they hear from their constituents.

 

You could mention…

Download a Word doc with a draft text here: Sims Hill letter draft Dec 2018

  • Bristol City Council are supposed to be prioritising local food production. The Council have said in their own documents that they want to prioritise “space for local food production within the city.” (p.73, Bristol Development Framework Core Strategy). In WoE proposals on housing, they apply the objective of minimising the loss of productive land, especially best and most versatile agricultural land. We think this objective definitely applies to Sims Hill.
  • Sims Hill is more than just a farm. We run a veg box scheme that feeds over 80 local households in Bristol and South Gloucestershire. We run a highly valued weekly community group at the Sims Hill Community Food Centre for people experiencing food poverty and social isolation. We employ local people in valued jobs. We work with our nearest primary school and other community groups to give young people access to outdoor space and understand where their food comes from. We provide volunteering experience in long-term and short-term roles, giving a wide range of people access food, land and wellbeing.
  • Sims Hill is in the top 3% of agricultural land in the whole of the UK. Sims Hill Shared Harvest and the rest of the Blue Finger Alliance are committed to maintaining agricultural land that can feed local people, support local wildlife and improve our environment. The land proposed by WoE is classified as “Grade 1 Agricultural land,” which means it is classified within the top 3% of all agricultural land in the whole of the UK as the “best and most versatile”. This land has feeding the people of Bristol and South Gloucestershire for hundreds of years. In the document, WECA acknowledge “public preference for alternative land uses” for the Stapleton Allotments as a reason that site is unsuitable. The same applies to Sims Hill.
  • There are other sites available. Even though we don’t want to become a car park, we also support attempts to reduce the traffic and congestion in Bristol – we are affected by the traffic, noise and pollution as much as anyone! But we believe there are more suitable sites outside the Blue Finger Alliance area, nearer the M4, that have not been shortlisted or considered in this plan and that should have been.

If you have any questions, please get in touch with our interim Chair, Corra Boushel corra.boushel[@]hotmail.co.uk

Bristol Food Network’s draft response

Our great supporters at the Bristol Food Network have been drafting a response as well. Here’s their thoughts, which give more detail on the points mentioned above.

I/We object to the proposed siting of a Park & Ride at Sims Hill, or any of the existing “best and most versatile land” within the Blue Finger Alliance identified area that is currently used for smallholdings, allotments or other agricultural purposes. We believe the Blue Finger land should be retained for agricultural uses and should not be used for transport or housing.

  1. The proposed Park & Ride site for the M32 area has been moved.

In the Emerging Spatial Strategy Transport Topic Paper from November 2016 and in most subsequent maps, the “indicative” P&R for the M32 has always been shown either at the junction of the M32 and M4 or to the north of the M4. By the time of the publication of the Joint Spatial Plan in November 2017, the P&R has become a “New P&R site south of M32 J1 to intercept trips into Bristol”.

Of the 17 sites considered in the Emerging Findings Transport Report, it appears that only two sites north of the M4 had been considered. It is generally assumed that this is because South Gloucestershire Council will not release/identify land within their authority area for a P&R, leaving potential sites predominantly in Bristol. There is much more land available to the north of the M4 than there is to the south. We would like to see what sites have been identified and ruled-out in that area. WECA and the local authorities have a duty to cooperate on identifying sites.

  1. Failure to consistently apply sustainability objectives.

WoE have applied the following sustainability objectives to their assessment of “strategic development locations for housing”:

4d. Promote the conservation and wise use of land, maximising the re-use of previously developed land.
4e. Minimise the loss of productive land, especially best and most versatile agricultural land.

These objectives don’t appear to have been applied to transport proposals within the Joint Spatial Plan, which in terms of environmental concerns have only been assessed for visual impact and flood risk.

  1. Inconsistency in assessing P&R sites.

One of the identified sites – Stapleton Smallholdings – has been “Discounted due to size constraints and public preference for alternative land uses (allotments).”  Stapleton allotments were earmarked for a P&R site (in Bristol’s soon-to-be-replaced Site Allocations document) which was intended to link-in with new the Metrobus infrastructure near Stoke Lane. This P&R proposal received massive public opposition, culminating in the occupation of the contested land by protesters. At the time, and in order to end the protest, promises were made that the P&R at Stapleton allotments would be removed from the Site Allocations document and that the remaining high quality agricultural land in that part of the city (known as the Blue Finger) would be protected against future developments. The “public preference for alternative land uses” is not restricted to the Stapleton Smallholdings but applies to all BCC-owned smallholdings and allotment land within the Blue Finger – on both sides of the M32. Similarly, Eastville Park has been discounted as “not expected to be supported by the public”. This argument applies equally at Sims Hill.

  1. Failure to acknowledge Bristol’s emerging Local Plan.

The JSP Transport papers have not acknowledged Bristol’s emerging Local Plan, and the special protection which is intended for the Blue Finger land. This seeks to protect all BCC-owned land within Stapleton Allotments and Holdings for agricultural uses and to recognise its special importance for food growing and community use. Again, we note the duty to cooperate amongst the WoE authorities, and the lack of consideration of how this policy should extend over authority boundaries.

https://www.bristol.gov.uk/planning-and-building-regulations/local-plan

https://www.bristol.gov.uk/documents/20182/34536/Bristol+Local+Plan+Review/09f23dba-9a9f-e387-8fc3-9637bca23125

p.56 (which is p.62 of the PDF) – 6.2.5 special designation for Stapleton Allotments and Holdings

Proposal HW 3: Specially Protected Local Green Space

Land identified as Specially Protected Local Green Space will be permanently retained as open space. Development which would result in harm to the land’s open character or role will not be permitted.

Ancillary development of a proportional scale may be acceptable where it directly supports the open space function of the land.

6.2.4 Specially protected Local Green Space is a designation set out in national planning policy. Its role is to protect open spaces that are demonstrably special to the local community and which need to be kept open permanently. Local Green Spaces are identified based upon five criteria of local significance relating to: Recreational value; Historic significance; Richness of wildlife; Beauty and tranquillity. Local Green Spaces are also required to be demonstrably special to the community they serve and offer a unique and irreplaceable provision to that community.

6.2.5 In Bristol, the types of open space that fall into the category of specially protected Local Green Space are considered to include: Traditional, multi-functional parks and recreational estates; Land designated as Town and Village Greens and Common Land; Designated Local Nature Reserves; Stapleton Allotments and Holdings (see Proposal RES 5).

Proposal RES 5 p.62 (p.68 of the PDF):

Proposal RES 5: Stapleton Allotments and Holdings

The Stapleton allotments and holdings will be recognised in the local plan and designated as specially protected Local Green Space in recognition of its special importance for food growing and community use. Developments which are inconsistent with this role will not be permitted.

The current designation of the land safeguarding it for transport infrastructure will be removed.

  1. Inadequate desk-top assessment.

The Emerging Findings Transport Report has included a “Desk-based assessment of environmental, social and economic impacts, and value for money of the options”. This survey has not been thorough in identifying sitting tenants and potential problems around existing tenancies. There is no mention in the document that the Sims Hill site is currently occupied by Sims Hill Shared Harvest CSA, which has a lease on the land till 2021. Nor is there any mention that the surrounding fields are farmed under a 3-generation hereditary tenancy arrangement.

 

 

 

May 1, 2018

Spring 2018 update

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.

Partnerships

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.

Upcoming events

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.

 

April 20, 2018

2018 AGM minutes available online

Our AGM had to be rescheduled this year due to snow and ice in early March, but a group of growers and members met a few weeks later on 26th March. You can find the minutes of the meeting – and all past meetings – on the members’ meeting minutes page.

March 9, 2018

Vacancy: Community worker

We are looking for a new Community worker to run our Community Food Centre. The Centre has been running since November 2016, and as our staff member moves away we are looking for a replacement to take this important role in the Sims Hill team.

veg

Principal tasks:

You will be responsible for working with referral agencies to invite vulnerable people to join a ‘community of health and well-being’ that gathers at the farm on Thursdays and offers work experience, a meal together and the opportunity to order free or subsidised food. You will manage this gathering, oversee the cooking of a meal and the distribution and ordering of food through Real Economy Co-operative.

The post is for 8 hours per week on Thursdays at the Feed Bristol site.

This role will suit someone who:

• relates well to people who are in difficult circumstances

• has an interest in food and food growing as a means to social cohesion

• recognises the importance of community life to our health and well-being

• has an ability to manage groups of volunteers in gardening and cooking contexts

• is proactive and able to develop the project and monitor progress

You will be responsible, on a day to day basis, to the Farm Manager and may work actively with our partners Real Economy.

Pay and conditions

· either at the rate of £12 per hour for an 8 hour day for 50 weeks per year (self-employed)

· or on an employed basis for one eight hour day per week at a rate of £10.58 per hour with four weeks holiday and a 6% employers pension contribution.

The agreed start date for this post is April 1st 2018.

The post is subject to one month’s written notice and will be formally reviewed and renewed on a six monthly basis.

How to apply:

Applications should be submitted on 2 sides of A4 plus a CV to simshillsharedharvest@gmail.com by 23rd March 2018.

November 1, 2017

Lunchtime conversation: Property is theft? Property is freedom?

Property is theft_

What have the English Revolution, the Irish potato famine and the gentrification of Easton all have in common?
Find out at a fascinating discussion on the transformative role of land ownership patters through British history.
The event will include a talk from Humprey Lloyd, a grower and member of the Landworkers’ Alliance, as well as a Q and A and general discussion from all present.
Lunch will be ready at 12:30 for everyone to share, cooked by the volunteers at Sims Hill Community Food Centre – we would appreciate a small donation. The discussion will then take place from 1-2pm. Please sign up on eventbrite so we know how many to cook for 🙂

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/property-is-theft-property-is-freedom-tickets-39475596572


Everyone welcome!

 

October 23, 2017

Sims Hill is Recruiting for a New Farm Manager!

Sims Hill is looking to recruit a Farm Manager to build upon the great work of our current Farm Manager Miriam Schoen who is moving out of the country.

Job Title: Farm Manager – Sims Hill Shared Harvest, Bristol
Status: Employed, 4 days per week
Contract: Permanent, subject to three months notice by either side. Working hours may also be varied at three
months notice.
Pay rate: £10/hour
Closing date for applications: 30th of November 2017
Start date of post: 1st of Feb 2018, or earlier by arrangement

We are looking for an experienced commercial organic grower with an understanding of CSA values and the ability to lead a team of volunteers and other employees. The role will be responsible for the planning, production and delivery of CSA and wholesale vegetables, as well as developing relationships with partners and wholesale clients, and developing other income streams. Part of the role also consists of the continuing setting up and development of infrastructure on the site including raising funds.

You will work with Chloe, our existing paid grower and may delegate some responsibilities to her by agreement with the board.

Please apply in writing including a cover letter and CV to simshillsharedharvest@googlemail.com.
Closing date 30th of November 2017.

The complete job spec can be found here.

September 13, 2017

Re-imagining the city – what do you want to discuss?

cristina

Join the Sims Hill Community Food Centre for lunch and help us decide on topics for our upcoming monthly discussions- we want to re-imagine our future and our city in a more sustainable and ethical way – so what big ideas and practical steps do we want to have and to take? During this event we will creating a list of topics that we want to explore over the coming year. Chris Sunderland, director of Sims Hill and the Real Economy will be facilitating.

The Sims Hill Community Food Centre group will be cooking a deicious vegan lunch for us to share. Please sign up for a ticket so we know how many to cater for. Donations for food costs would be appreciated.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/re-imagining-the-city-what-do-you-want-to-discuss-tickets-37869514738

Thursday 21st September, 12:30-14:00 @ Feed Bristol

Everyone welcome!

September 7, 2017

Education project shares the harvest with Sense families

On the 1st of September, a group of families from Sense came to enjoy the bounty of the Sims Hill Harvest.

The children who visited have sight/hearing issues, and in some cases many other health complications. All enjoyed engaging with the smells (from garlic chives to fresh tomatoes), textures (from soft marshmallow leaves to prickly cucumbers) and tastes (from raspberries to green beans) on offer!

Families harvested and prepared simple meals, learning new healthy seasonal recipes which they can repeat at home. Many parents said their children were trying – and enjoying – vegetables that they wouldn’t touch at home.

It was a great day, with very positive feedback from children, parents and Sense staff. We hope to arrange more similar days in the future which really make the most of Feed Bristol’s accessible facilities and bring new diverse groups to Sims Hill to engage with healthy, seasonal local food.

Here’s one of our easy recipes if you want to try it with the glut of beans we have at the moment:

Tangy Green Bean Salad

Ingredients:

Green beans

1 tbsp Oil (olive or sesame)

1/2 tbsp Soy sauce

Squeeze of lime

Garlic, 1 clove crushed

 

Method:

  1. Steam green beans until just soft
  2. Drain and cool with cold water
  3. Mix oil, soy sauce, lime and garlic in a jar
  4. Mix all ingredients together and serve
July 26, 2017

Sustaining the land: the diet question – lunchtime conversation

Easton pick up point

The next in our series of monthly conversations – let’s discuss what a sustainable diet really looks like. Hannah Steenbergen from the Sustainable Food Trust will be facilitating a conversation about this topic – drawing from her work at SFT, which will bring in important topics such as fats and livestock, soil and sustainability. Food for thought – and you will get fed as well! The members of our Community Food Centre will be cooking up some fresh, homegrown veggies so we don’t get hungry while we talk about food!

Thursday 10th August, 12:30-14:00.

Feed Bristol, 158 Frenchay Park Road, Bristol, BS16 1HB

Please RSVP on eventbrite so we know how many people to cater for: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/sustaining-the-land-the-diet-question-lunchtime-conversation-tickets-36538457510

 

Everyone welcome.

The event is free but donations for ingredients would be welcomed.