Once upon a time there was a small group of people who had been encouraged to think about how to make their village sustainable. They looked around and thought how easy it would be to grow their own food rather than relying on big companies supplying plastic wrapped food, treated with chemicals and shipped many miles. They began to dream of having a community owned farm in the rich land of the Tyne Valley and started to share the dream with others. The result of this vision and much hard work is Go Local Food.
GO Local Food is a members’ crop sharing scheme growing seasonal vegetables on 2 acres of land in Ovington. We license the land, and with 3 large and 1 small poly tunnel grow around 40 varieties and 5 tons of vegetables each year; tomatoes, pumpkins, kale, sprouts, turnips, chillies – you get the idea – along with the more exotic such as kilaan kichi, mooli and spaghetti squash. “Our cooking skills have certainly been challenged! The taste of really fresh vegetables is quite amazing.” Kim Sanderson.
But what is so unique about being a vegetable grower in Tynedale? First of all there aren’t many farmers growing vegetables purely for local consumption. However it is our co-operative model that makes us different. The whole enterprise is owned by us: we aren’t just consumers we are the producers. Together we decide what and how we grow. It also means we are involved in every aspect of running our co-op. We are concerned about the environment and grow in tune with nature. This means our crops are not subject to a diet of chemicals. We use manures and green composts to improve the soil. We do not wrap or ‘ship’ our produce. Our crops are harvested and distributed (with soil on) within hours – field to fork in 24 hours!
We have become really good at re-cycling: bucket handles, window frames, doors, pallets and more. Skilled and inventive members have designed and built specialist equipment for tractor work using recycled steel pallet racking.
Our members tend to be busy folk, possibly with not enough space to grow vegetables and/or a little nervous, perhaps, of growing the range we produce at Go Local Food. They are therefore happy to pay a monthly subscription for their share. With this money we employ an experienced horticulturalist to plan and organise the growing and who works alongside our team of merry work shares (members who give their time as a monthly ‘payment’.)
In addition as a community owned venture we have volunteers who are testing out something new, gaining work experience, sharing their knowledge or skills, in a relaxed yet purposeful atmosphere. Bridget has her bee hives, children and young people (who form our new Growing Gang) have their special space. And it’s not all serious growing, a calendar of events provides plenty of opportunities for members to socialise.
Such is the pleasure of being a part of the Community Supported Agriculture scheme in the UK.