Weston Spring Farm project outline and crowdfunder: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/ecological-farm-for-bath
What is an ecological farm?
It is a sustainable farm that works with nature. We apply ecological principles to farming. And it works!
Ecological farm can even regenerate our environment! It can provide more employment, stronger local economies and more resilient communities. Farming with ecology really works and small ecological farms are more productive per acre of land cultivated than conventional (industrial) agriculture.
For Bath and beyond...
There is no reason why we cannot grow the majority of our calories and nutrients locally. Only decades ago Bath’s food was produced by a myriad of market gardens, orchards and small farms dotted in and around the city.
This campaign hopes to shine the light on the need for small and ecological farms everywhere in the UK.
We want to show what is possible to achieve when the community come together and reclaim food production and the protection of their environment into their own hands. This is food sovereignty and nature restoration in action.
We are part of a positive movement and are inviting you on board!
We are Middle Ground Growers
We are a team of 4 young ecological farmers collaborating to grow food for community.
I began working on organic farms at age 16 and spent 2 years travelling and volunteering at ecological projects around the world, from new zealand to palestine and back to the UK in 2018! I began working at Avonleigh organic farm whilst establishing a small market garden in Bath, initially selling to a few locals and a small shop. In 2019 I took the leap and quit my paid work to focus on establishing Middle Ground Growers. I am now working full-time on this farm, growing for over 70 families weekly veg boxes, whilst living on a solar powered canal boat. I feel deeply committed to land regeneration and growing food for my community.
I grew up in France and studied agriculture in Lyon with a special interest in agroforestry and agroecology. Throughout my studies I worked on organic and biodynamic farms getting first hand experience of dairy, cattle and horticulture farming. I contributed to the research, development and promotion of agroforestry practices in France and Europe. When I moved to the UK in 2010, I worked in conservation and environmental education NGOS. My passion for organic farming took me back to work with cooperatives of coffee and cocoa smallholder producers in Latin America and East Africa. In 2017 I completed my Permaculture Design Course in Colombia and began shifting towards land based activities, re-learning how to grow food and trees. Upon return to the UK I began volunteering at local growing projects, Wwoofing and started working with Middle Ground Growers in 2019.
When I moved onto a canal boat, I learnt off grid living skills and remembered how to live with rather than in combat with the elements. I started working on an organic flower farm which connected me further to the land and I was introduced to the magic of growing. With a thirst for understanding how to grow veg as part of a cyclical reciprocal system, I began work at Middle Ground Growers in 2019. My previous experiences working in health & social care showed me that the most important things to humanity are community and connection to place. I believe that deepening and remembering our relationships to the land will help to heal the ecological damage that has been caused, as well as our societies. I would love to integrate marginalised groups into enjoying the land and provide opportunities to foster these connections.
Growing up on an equestrian livery yard I engaged in a variety of practical skills from a young age and soon took on skilled trades in mechanics, restoring vintage cars and construction work. Later in life my interest began shifting towards a land based livelihood and I started working on organic farms, to apply my practical skills to something positive and purposeful. I now hope to use these skills and deepen my learning of regenerative farming to build an ecological farm for Bath. I’d eventually like to teach and mentor young people to learn from the land and develop practical skills - particularly youth from disadvantaged backgrounds who struggle with the standard schooling system.
Our existing market garden
We currently have a short term lease for a 2-acre plot in Bathampton. There we co-run a successful market garden called Middle Ground Growers since 2020. We provide veg boxes for 70 families every week and also supply top restaurants (Oak, Landrace) and local shops (Harvest Natural Foods, SCOOP Wholefoods).
Middle Ground Growers is a Community Interest Company (CiC) which means we are not doing this for profit but for people. We are interested in growing food and community. We think they go hand in hand.
We grow following agroecological principles (no-dig, organic methods, permaculture design and ethics and love agroforestry!). We want to build food sovereignty for Bath and further afield by producing food, training the next generation of young farmers and welcoming everyone in the food movement.
We are proud members of the Landworkers Alliance a union of growers, farmers, foresters and land workers in the UK (part of La Via Campesina a movement of over 2 millions small scale farmers around the globe✊).
We live in unique times. Times of incredible planetary change. Time to dream big and be audacious, courageous and create these dreams through concrete actions and determination.✊
Our passion for growing food for community united us to co-purchase 16 acres of land and build a shared vision for Bath's ecological farm: Weston Spring Farm.
Imagine visiting a farm of incredible beauty, hundreds of blossoming apple, plum and pear trees, wildflowers and berry bushes, a no dig market garden brimming with nutritious organic vegetables and fields of squash and peas protected from heatwaves and drought by the shade of trees.
Imagine hearing the murmur of water trickling in the brook, bees busying away, the damselflies hovering around the wetland and ponds, the birds nesting in the edible hedgerows. A farm teeming with activity, people from all backgrounds and abilities learning and working together in harmony.
Sounds like a nice utopia? An utopia is merely a world we have not yet invented. Not something impossible.
We dream of a flagship farm project that will inspire many young people to join the agroecological movement and help us build a resilient, inclusive and affordable local food system.
Do you want to be part of this story?
We have purchased a 16 acre pasture in Upper Weston in Bath.
We have obtained planning permission for a solar barn and two polytunnels. Thank you BANES Council!
We have also received a grant for planting 10,000 trees from the Forest of Avon Trust. Thanks guys!
And now what?
We need your support to fund the first few years of this adventure.
We need money to build the barn, the market garden, to plant soft fruits and berry bushes, restore the brook and create a thriving ecological wetland.
Zoom on the farm design
We have applied whole farm and permaculture design principles and methods to come up with this design. Our approach is rooted in close loop cycles - no waste!- lean farming and regenerative agriculture.
These are the elements of our design:
A solar barn - the heart of the farm: equipped with a 12 Kw solar panel system the barn will power the farm machinery, tools, electric bikes, cool room and dry room. The barn is an L-shape design facing the market garden, using locally sourced round timber and larch cladding. Inside we will wash, pack and store produce and prepare veg boxes. We will also have space for workshop for our trainees and apprentices as well as storage space for machinery, bikes and tools.
Market Garden - the 5 acre no-dig market garden will comprise of 60 raised beds and 4 'alley-cropped' fields where we will grow a wide range of seasonal vegetables, flowers, seed and staple crops. We will follow organic principles and certification standards and produce enough food for over 400 people (veg boxes, restaurants, shops). We will use hand tools and electric tools (powered tilther) to cultivate healthy and productive soil. We will never use any chemicals on our land.
Fruit & Nut Trees - there will be two main agroforestry orchards. We will grow or have animals between rows of fruit trees. We will plant 400 fruit trees (apple, pears, plums, medlar, quince), 200 nut trees (walnut, sweet chestnuts, hazelnuts) and other species mix in forest gardens (e.g. seabuckthorn, amelanchier).
Field scale production - between the rows of trees we will cultivate alleys of staple crops such as squash, potatoes, beans and some experimental crops (lentils, asparagus, peas).
Forest Gardens & Hedgerows - dotted around the site edible mix of plant, shrub and tree species will give year round supply of food (root, berries, leaves), medicine (bark, leaves, flowers) and fibre.
Ecological Restoration - on the north side of the land we will restore the natural flow of water through the land by digging a reservoir to capture a large volume of water, recreating a meandering brook planted with willows, alders and other water loving plants which will recreate a wetland/humid habitat for insects, amphibians and countless other species.
People, Community & Well being - there is no farm without people and so we hope to have a core team of 4 growers/foresters/ecological stewards abut also train a yearly cohort of agroecological trainees and apprentices, work with local schoolsand organizations on be-spoke workshops and activities for all ages, background and abilities.
How much does it cost? ⏳
We need to raise £95,000 in total. It sounds a lot but this is the bare minimum to build the farm.
We have spent already £210,000 in the acquisition of the land, planning and other start up costs.
Here is a breakdown of the cost of the farm project:
- Solar barn (£30,000): Foundations, local timber posts, larch cladding, roof sheets,
- Market garden (£15,000): Small tractor for farm operations, compost, manure, hand tools (Electric tilther, Earthway seeder, hoes, forks, rake etc.), materials (string, poles, wire).
- Ecological restoration (£5,000): Water survey, ecological surveys, Hiring a digger for 2 weeks to create ponds and wetland, materials and wetland plants -Staff/labour (£40,000): for year 1 the labour required to set up and manage the farm is equivalent to 2 full time incomes. In subsequent years this cost will be covered by the farm income through veg box sales.