Field Good Crowd Farming on the Gower Peninsula, Wales
We want to expand our community farming projects.
We have created an effective and replicable model for engaging our local community in the production of high quality affordable organic produce whilst improving the biodiversity of the area…
For 50 years three fields at Webbsfield, Ilston, Gower, Wales, lay fallow, overgrazed by sheep from the common and with minimal biodiversity. This project is about a dream that those 15 acres can become an abundant food source, maximizing biodiversity whilst creating a community who are inspired to rebuild their local food economy.
We embarked on this dream 2 years ago and since then Gower Power has supported the creation of Cae Tan CSA, which is now providing vegetables for 50 households and plans to double in size in 2016. Cae Tan has been working with the local school on a journey to grow a pizza from scratch; where pupils & parents have grown all of the ingredients & will grind the wheat to make flour, before baking in a wood fired oven at school. Cae Tan also works with a range of local groups who come to the land to volunteer. These include long term unemployed & hard to reach groups who have little access to the outdoors.
We have also supported the creation of a sheep share which has nearly 60 sheep owned by community farm members, along with chicken and bee clubs for eggs, honey, and sources of natural fertilizer and pollination. Members share responsibility for the daily care of the animals and bees, and make group decisions about ongoing welfare. A community orchard of Welsh heritage varieties of apples, plums, pears, damsons and hundreds of soft-fruit bushes have been planted. This is alongside engaging volunteers in planting 2000 trees, teaching groups the ancient art of traditional hedge-laying and the implementation of many other biodiversity measures for the benefit of bees and other pollinators.
We wanted to create a place where people, animals and plants could co-exist nourishing themselves and their surroundings; a place where people could rest, work and play; somewhere where people could learn and appreciate our relationship with finite and renewable sources of food and energy.
Above all else we wanted and still want to create a place where natural resources are cherished and valued, where people feel a sense of belonging and ownership of their agricultural, industrial and natural heritage, and where they feel they are creating an ecologically sensitive future.
Why we need your support
The next phase of development at Webbsfield is about setting up more infrastructure to feed and engage more people. Amongst the things we need are: improved access in and out of the site; fencing for new planting areas and for more animals; tables and benches for people to use and enjoy the land; we need shelters and equipment for training and maintaining fruit, vegetables, animals and people alike.
A successful fundraise means:
• We will double the size of Cae Tan CSA and provide vegetables for 100 households in 2016.
• We will improve our offer to schools, the unemployed and groups who have difficulty accessing the outdoors.
• We will engage more community members in bringing a variety of traditional skills back to life.
• We will continue introducing a variety of biodiversity measures for pollinators and other species on our community farm.
• We will raise awareness locally and beyond of the wide range of benefits of supporting ecologically sensitive land-based livelihoods.
We invite your support in helping us materialize this vision of resilience and sustainability, so please feel free to spend your life savings on our rewards.
We also want to keep building our network of co-operators willing to help us achieve our dream so please send this link onto family and friends with your recommendations for helping our cause. Thank you!
What is the social/environmental problem/issue that this project will address?
In summary: the intensification of agriculture which occurred throughout the 20th century might well have had short-term benefits of feeding lots of people relatively cheaply and enabling whole populations of villages, towns and cities to focus on producing other “stuff” instead of their own food…
But it has come at a high price to local and global ecology through overuse of pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, the mismanagement of land previously abundant in biodiversity, and increased pollution using machinery and in transportation of fruit and vegetables from one side of the planet to another.
Less commonly understood is the effect that this has had on small-scale land-based livelihoods and rural communities, where supermarkets and wholesalers have exerted pressure on suppliers driving prices to the bottom. Thousands of previously viable mixed farming small-holdings rich in biodiversity have steadily been replaced with giant monocultures dependent on poisons to produce crops of declining quality which are themselves have become biodiversity deserts.
Percentages of income to the “Real Economy” (i.e. the money that actually goes to the producers) have declined drastically in favour of supporting people who make money out of the transport, the storage and preservation processes, marketing and retailing of the bulk of the homogenous produce that we find on the shelves of our supermarkets… before significant proportions of it are then thrown in the bin!
In essence, the industrialization of agriculture has externalized many of its costs and society has been left to pay the price… And it isn’t just largely responsible for the continued decline of our eco-systems, it is totally destroying rural communities along the way too.
Can you give us some statistics on this problem?
• Some 45% of all food consumed in the UK is imported from overseas. Much of it is only made possible due to the low wages and poor working conditions of workers in those countries. Supermarkets account for 97% of UK grocery sales, squeezing producers and pushing smaller local retailers out of business with aggressive pricing.
• In the UK the average age of farmers is almost 58 and there are few new entrants.
• In the UK our soil is eroding at a rate of more than 2 million tonnes a year, having been steadily degraded by 200 years of intensive farming and industrial pollution. It’s estimated that half of the topsoil on the planet has been lost in the last 150 years.
• The present food system is responsible for some 30% of world greenhouse gas emissions, with significant impacts from the use of fossil-fuel derived pesticides and fertilisers, as well as transportation and packaging.
What is your solution?
Our solution is to create a model for engaging the Gower community in its local food economy.
Through providing affordable high quality organic and local produce, and by enabling people to participate in growing vegetables and fruit, and caring for animals and the natural environment, people develop healthier relationships with those resources and can learn how to look after them.
Through enabling local investment into schemes community members start sharing the risks of farming with the people who provide their food. We can learn to understand and appreciate the challenges and opportunities presented by small-scale ecologically sensitive agriculture, and also gain better awareness of the ecological and social consequences of most forms of industrialized farming.
Our solution is to create local resilience, and to create food systems that work with the natural processes as opposed to exploit them.
It is a model we intend to replicate across the county and is part of a growing movement of agro-ecology projects that are happening all across the UK and beyond.
Think global, act local, so the old adage goes…
How will you deliver this?
Over the next year we will double the size of Cae Tan CSA, and provide weekly vegetables for up to 100 households throughout the year.
Cae Tan will be working with hundreds of volunteers and provide training and inspiration to many more people who visit the farm for workshops. Cae Tan will engage more schools in its Grow Your Own Pizza project, and also work with those schools to set up food co-ops.
As our orchard matures as well as sharing fruit within the community and reviving traditional rituals like Wassailing in partnership with the Gower Heritage Centre, we will juice, pickle and preserve and show community members and volunteers how to do this for themselves.
We will trial rearing new livestock at our farm, and will identify new land to expand our sheep share and continue to revive traditional crafts with the wool such as spinning, dyeing and felting. We will also develop a co-operative of farmers, who graze their animals on the common, and link those and other local producers directly to our expanding membership.
Biodiversity management will also always be one of our primary concerns, so we will continue to manage the land, planting species for the benefit of pollinators, and laying hedges traditionally to improve interconnectivity of the surrounding conservation areas.
We will also continue to engage the wider community through a variety of media to ensure that our messages about the importance of supporting land-based livelihoods are communicated to a national audience of consumers, policy makers, movers and shakers and everyone else in between.