Sims Hill is a pioneering cooperative owned by its members. We are set up as a Community Supported Agriculture Project (CSA), growing food just 4 miles from the centre of Bristol. Instead of just buying veg from us people become members of the project. Our core aims are to produce healthy, local, seasonal veg using as ecological methods as possible, whilst making it affordable and accessible to people, especially those in a less able situation to do so.
We provide food with a face giving city folk the chance to connect with the soil, the landscape, food growing and even some mud! Since we started we have provided a workshare exchange giving people the opportunity to learn about and access healthy local veg in exchange for a few hours of time a week. We are now evolving with two new projects, one connecting children to where their food comes from and the other setting up a community food centre helping people in crisis to access healthy food and community.
We have grown! We have been going for 7 magical years thanks to the hard work of our members who support us and give their time. Begging and borrowing tools and a tractor has worked up until now and we are very grateful for all the help we have received! We’re now growing vegetables for 85 members and need to evolve. Growing vegetables in the English climate can be a bit hit and miss!! Due to this we sometimes have such short windows of opportunity to get work done that not having our own equipment can be problematic. To be a truly sustainable project the time has come to raise funds for our own little tractor and equipment to cultivate our crops and soil better. We don't need a sparkly new one, just a small secondhand one and some implements to save our backs and improve the efficiency of our crop production.
We still need to increase member numbers to be viable in the future and having our own equipment can help us to achieve this. We will be able to grow more and better crops. We are still buying in organic vegetables from local farms to supplement the veg boxes for our members, especially through the winter months. Being able to grow more of our own crops will help us reduce costs. This crowdfunder is not only about tools and implements but to make sure this is a long term project. Please, lovely people, help us to be more self sufficient!
Sims Hill Shared Harvest was born in 2010, 2 years after original ideas were bounced around amongst interested people, the council came up with 5 acres of land in Frenchay. This was once part of Bristols historic market garden quarter protected for food growing but is no longer. Leases were signed and the first CSA in Bristol was formed.
We grew vegetables for 25 members in the first year and those members paid 6 months upfront to kickstart the project. The facilities in the field were more than basic with no running water, no covered space and just a few tools. Through huge commitment, love for the land and support from members it became established and member numbers grew to 50 in the 2nd year. Times have been good and bad (2012: ‘wettest summer in 100 years’). In 6 years we’ve put up 2 polytunnels and a packing shed, installed drainage, all in a very wet field and grown our member numbers to 90. Forming a working partnership with the brilliant Feed Bristol project has meant we are able to use their facilities including a greenhouse, which provides us with protected growing space.
Sims Hill is a Community Supported Agriculture scheme operating on a shared risk, shared responsibility basis. The CSA model connects the farmer directly with the consumer and creates much more stability and support for the farmer in terms of planning what to grow. It reduces waste by effectively growing to order, and in really bad years, if yields are low, members agree to take less veg whilst still paying for their membership to help the farm through hard times. We have quarterly members meetings and we all decide together the price of the share and what we will grow . To reduce carbon and packaging members collect their vegetables every week from one of six pick up points around the city (the furthest one from the farm is 5 miles) and we have a workshare option for people who want to work on the farm for their veg share instead of paying for it. We have monthly members volunteer days creating a community environment around food growing.
We want food to have a face, we believe it’s important to know who grows your food. We believe in-season veg is not only more sustainable but also more delicious. Finally, we believe that commercial production of vegetables produces too much waste and is creating a deeply insecure future for growers financially and ecologically.
We pride ourselves on making healthy naturally grown vegetables available to all folks of Bristol, as members have the option to work for their box of vegetables.
Graph - Vegetables price comparison
We believe strongly that vegetables (and all food) should be free from chemicals, so we grow ours using permaculture principles, taking care to create and sustain a diverse living ecosystem in our soils, environment and the landscape as a whole.
We believe in nurturing people as well as plants. By connecting both we aim to create a strong community caring for the land and each other. All whilst creating an environment where we can all enjoy the therapeutic benefits of being outdoors with a community of like-minded people.
We believe everybody has the right to affordable, healthy, nutritious food. More than this we strongly believe that the food we put into our bellies effects who we are and how we think. Therefore the core of our mission is to make good food more accessible to everybody.
Sims Hill pioneers a new approach to helping people in crisis. We are proud to be piloting a whole new way of drawing alongside people who are going through a difficult time in their lives. Our approach is very simple. People, who are referred to us by agencies, will be invited to come to the site on a Thursday, share in some work in the field, cook an outdoor meal together and go away with some healthy food, some from Sims Hill and some from our partner Real Economy Co-operative. They will be encouraged to come back each week and to make their gathering into a community of health and well-being, where members get to know and care about food and the food system and experience the healing power of engagement with the natural world. It is a simple concept, but we believe that it may prove life-changing for those who take part. It is the first element in a network of community food centres that is being planned for Bristol, with the overall aim of creating a city where no one need be hungry and no one need be alone.
We are also starting educational sessions with school children learning more about where their food comes from and nutritional qualities, as well as teaching how to grow their own vegetables and how to cook them. This is exciting as who best to work with than children. Making vegetable growing and especially eating exciting is what we are good at! We are in the process of networking with schools to offer sessions to their pupils, but also to train teachers on how to deliver sessions all based around food and food growing. We feel very excited to share our passion with children and hopefully help to ensure the future of good balanced nutrition and small local food production.