I often get asked about the best ways for people to source more locally grown vegetables. After a year of working alongside and visiting a lot of producers, I’ve come up with a list of four farms who I feel offer a good answer to this question. It’s far from comprehensive, but these are the farms that I know well enough to feel confident in putting forward.
A quick aside - most veg box schemes in this country supplement their own produce with vegetables from the UK or beyond. With our climate and the challenges of meeting the demands (in quantity and variety) from customers year round, this is fairly inevitable. For me, I look for a farm that is as transparent as possible about this, something often lost in larger operations.
1) Sims Hill Shared Harvest
This is where I currently get a majority of my vegetables from, partly (a) because they are the closest geographically (located on a 6 acre site up in Frenchay) but also (b) because they are a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) scheme where the members share the risk with the farmers. You pay a monthly fee up front for your share, and receive a share of the produce they grow in return. They also run a monthly volunteer day, have a schools program and are working with vulnerable people through a new community project. It’s a growing project that's still facing some challenges, but there’s a strong and committed community behind it.
The cost: £26/month for a half share to £45/month for a full share
The logistics: Collection from a number of points around the city between Thurs PM and Sun AM.
Find out more: http://simshill.co.uk
2) The Community Farm
Nestled in the beautiful Chew Valley, the Community Farm is part farm, part box scheme. As well as growing on around 8 acres of their 16 acre site, they also buy in from local farms, committing to a price at the beginning of the season to help support other local businesses. This enables them to supply 300-400 boxes each week to the local area. They are community owned, and run regular volunteer days and events, have a growing therapeutic arm and host school visits.
The cost: £7.30/week for a small box to £21.50 for a large family provider
The logistics: Home delivery on a Wednesday/Thursday/Friday (depending on location)
Find out more: http://www.thecommunityfarm.co.uk/
3) Plowright Organic
Plowright are a little further afield, farming around 30 acres at the base of the Quantock Hills. However they make it onto this list because of the high amount of home grown veg that makes it into their boxes (100% home grown for 9 months of the year, and the only farm offering a completely home grown box at the moment). As well as over 200 boxes a week, they also sell a lot of vegetables wholesale, including to The Community Farm. They’ve managed to scale up their operation successfully while still holding true to their organic and ecological roots, producing beautiful vegetables along the way.
The cost: £9.95/week for a small box to £21.65 for an extra large box.
The logistics: Home delivery on a Wednesday
Find out more: https://plowrightorganic.co.uk/
4) Purple Patch
This is a little different, as they sell direct to customers via the Food Assembly, rather than run a box scheme. It’s also completely seasonal, meaning that winter is pretty quiet, but during the summer months their salads, greens and herbs are firm favourites. Growing on a few acres in St Werburghs, it’s wonderfully local and a great opportunity to support a small business as it grows. And you also get to chat to Mary as you collect your veg each week and find out what’s going on down at the farm.
The cost: Variable depending on produce available
The logistics: Fishponds collection 5.00-6.30 Tuesday, Easton collection 5.30-7.00 Wednesday.
What about the big name schemes you ask? While companies such as Riverford and Able and Cole have huge markets, I feel that it’s better to keep our money in the local community and with a nearby business, especially given the great options we have on our doorstep...