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Community agriculture project marks first year with a new growth plan

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 13, 2013

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An innovative, new growing project based on the Dartington Estate has launched a campaign to raise funds for expansion, after a resoundingly successful first year.

School Farm CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is the UK's only organically certified, no-dig, community farm. The farm, which is based on a one-acre site on the Dartington Estate, operates as a not-for-profit social enterprise providing fresh, organic vegetables and is also a hub for local horticultural training and education.

On Monday, the School Farm CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) hosted a "Get to Know School Farm CSA - your local, community farm" event at Schumacher College on the Dartington Estate. The farmers traded in their spades and forks for tea and cake and presentations were made by people involved in the education, volunteering and vegetable growing on the farm.

The farm completed a pilot this year and has been overwhelmed by support and demand for both its local grown produce and educational activities. At present the CSA supplies 20 local families and has this year held 49 volunteer days, a subsidised beginners gardening course and several open days for the wider community, one of which, aimed at 50 people, drew a crowd of over 600.

Members of the farm invest in the farm at the beginning of the season, receiving a weekly vegetable box and becoming involved in the growing of the food by contact with the farmers, volunteer and open day activities. The farm also offers horticultural training through local education institutions and affordable gardening courses.

"We need help to take on more land, allowing us to reach a wider range of people," says Jenny Gellatly, one of four directors involved and the Project manager/Grower on the farm.

The growers have chosen to raise funds through crowdfunding website Buzzbnk, where people can go online to pledge time and money.

"Rather than trying to take out a bank loan and the interest going into bankers' pockets, we want to use people power and crowdfunding to draw like-minded supporters who are also inspired to take a stand against the status quo, and help their community rebuild the local food economy," says Laura Creen, Co-Director and Future Grower.

"Every pound donated will make a difference to what we are doing, and if it's not for yourself then buying the gift voucher as a Christmas present will help us and help spread the word about what we are trying to achieve," adds Melissa Harvey, Co-Director and Volunteer Coordinator.

School Farm has been a thriving market garden and centre of education since 2007 when the neglected site was brought back to life by horticulturalist Nick Gooderham. This year, 2013, was its first year operating as a community supported agriculture scheme. Under this model the farm supplies local families and businesses with fresh organic vegetables and also provides a service to the community in the form of educational and social events.

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