A year on the farm 2015

What a year it’s been! So much happens on our farm and these are just a few snippets fro mthe year. This was originally posted on the Sutton Community Farm blog:

In the final few days of the 2015 we’ve been having a recap of the wonderful year that’s gone and looking forward to the exciting year ahead. We want to take this time to say a huge thank you to everyone that has helped make Sutton Community Farm such a vibrant, productive and special place. We feel so grateful to have this farm and such an incredible community around us. Here’s some highlights from the year:

January to March

In January we launched FarmStart – our food growing business incubator. We also went to the Oxford Real Farming Conference to join a panel discussion about local authorities and access to land.

On the farm, we were busy spreading compost, ordering seeds, sowing shallots and building a new polytunnel ready for the coming season.

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In February we had a spot of snow and once that had gone, we had the pleasure of hosting legendary no-dig food growing guru, Charles Dowding on the farm. Charles spent the day with our growing team exploring strategies to improve our food production.

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In March, we went deep into business planning on a bid to take on another 6 acres which we didn’t get, but that’s okay! We also had visits from local schools, Finton House and Bandon Hill.

April – May

April is when things really kick-in on the production front. We sowed thousands of seeds and prepared the beds for the season. We also launched Sutton People’s Kitchen, our outreach education project that brings people together to celebrate food, encourage healthy eating and promote local food growing. The project involves cook clubs, banquets, film screenings and a pop-up stall on the high-street running cooking demonstrations.

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Following a popular community survey about opening a shop and cafe, we had public meetings to explore the idea further. From this, a shop steering committee was established who have been driving forward plans to open a cafe and shop on Sutton High Street. They have been meeting regularly, working hard and now the business plan is now complete and they are raising investment!

In May, we welcomed our new food growing apprentice, Harley. She’s has been a joy to work with and has made fantastic progress building her horticultural expertise.

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June

In June we said farewell to Carlota who was bound for Brazil and welcomed our new Food Distribution Coordinator, Pavlina. One of her first tasks was a cooking demonstration at the Streatham Food Festival, which she embraced with heaps of enthusiasm.

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We had an extra pair of hands from Matthieu, a work experience student from Normandy who came to help for 6 weeks. We also had two wonderful work experience students from the Link Secondary School and visits from the primary schools where we had been running after-school cook clubs.

Matthiew and team

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July – August

In July we had a new compost toilet installed, which we are grateful to the Sutton Community Fund for supporting. The excitement about this loo should not be underestimated!

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We also had a groups from Carshalton Ladies, as well as Google and Lloyds come to the farm for their away days and we had a appreciation volunteer party!

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September

September was a big month! Not only were we starting to fill our VegBags with 100% produce from our farm, we also launched our Community Share Offer – making us London’s first community-owned farm. You can buy a share today!

We also had a wonderful Harvest Festival with a fantastic turn out. It’s always a joy to share the farm with so many people and celebrate harvest. On the day there were lots of games, cooking demos, pizza and music.

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Later in the month, we ran a food business training day for staff and volunteers. We had lots of group visits including volunteers from the Sutton & Carshalton Women’s Register, the Greater London Authority, Reed Business, The Challenge and Wallington Brownies.

October – November

In October we finally launched ditched plastic bags for our new returnable bags, that were kindly sponsored by Luckies of London who also came to the farm for their away day. People are returning their bags at a good rate, which is great news.

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We were also bowled over by two beautiful videos that were made about our farm. Student volunteers from The Challenge came to the farm as well as our volunteer Annie O:

December

In December we started sending a weekly big boxes of vegetables and fruit to Sutton Food Bank, to help people in crisis. We’ll do this throughout 2016 and this has been kindly supported by employee donations from Reed Business Information.

December also saw the launch of Grow Beer Sutton, our community hop growing and brewing project. Grow Beer is all about delicious, local beer: grown, brewed and enjoyed by the community.

We were excited to hear that Sutton Food Forum – a network we helped establish, formally joined the Sustainable Food Cities network. Sutton Food Forum is a network for organisations that have an interest in creating a better local food system in Sutton. It provides a forum where we can work with other local partners. One of the successes this year was helping the London Borough of Sutton sign up to the Sustainable Fish Cities Pledge, which commits them to use more sustainable fish in 1.5 million lunches served each year. 

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Finally we did our last big harvest and had our Christmas parties! We packed the final VegBags of the year and now we’re ready for a well earned rest. Phew!

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