A focus on local farming: Sutton Community Farm

What is Sutton Community Farm?

Sutton Community Farm is a community-owned project on a beautiful seven-acre smallholding with views towards the skyline of central London. Volunteers are at the heart of our farm and we strive to be an inclusive space for the community, shaped by the community. People come to the farm to learn new skills, share knowledge and be inspired. Some come to take a break from the office and some just because they love local food. Growing food is incredibly therapeutic, a refreshing, enriching activity that’s proven to be good for both body and soul. So far, we’ve had over 3,000 volunteers and we continue to welcome new faces each week.

Tell us a little bit about how the VegBox scheme came about?

The farm started in 2010, aiming to increase access to fresh, healthy, sustainable food and provide a shared space for people to cultivate skills, get exercise and make friends. Following community consultation with residents in nearby Hackbridge, Anna Francis from local environmental charity BioRegional started looking for some land. With some help from local charity EcoLocal, we found a patch of unused land and then invited people to come and help out. The project grew slowly as we developed our skills, gathered equipment, raised funds and understood the land and our place in the community. VegBoxes are currently the most sustainable way of distributing the food we grow to the community as this provides us with some security and means we only harvest according to what customers have ordered on a weekly basis. Today we work with a variety of people and groups demonstrating a form of horticulture that grows large amounts of food while also having a positive social and environmental impact. We’re making great progress towards being an inspiring model of community small-scale farming. Our vegetables are delicious and available to order through our weekly VegBox scheme.

How do people sign up and is there a weekly commitment?

A small community farm such as ours needs to build a loyal, regular customer base. This provides us with some security and means we can organise an efficient growing rotation based around our customers with minimal amounts of food going to waste. By having a regular order, our customers can enjoy seasonal varieties throughout the year, while developing a more healthy and sustainable lifestyle.

We offer a range of frequencies including weekly, fortnightly and every 3 weeks and customers have a rolling order, so they can cancel at anytime with just a week’s notice. Our service is also flexible in that we cater for anyone with specific dietary preferences by swapping out items you don’t eat. To try us out, visit our online farm shop: http://vegbox.suttoncommunityfarm.org.uk

Why should people choose a VegBox over supermarket vegetables?

Through all of our projects we witness how food is able to bring people together in extraordinary ways. We encourage everyone to get their hands dirty and get more connected with where their food comes from. With the right choices, we can buy food that helps increase biodiversity, minimises pollution and lightens our footprint on our planet. Supermarkets may be convenient but they have hindered the relationship between people and their food to such an extent that people no longer know where their food comes from or how much work goes into growing it (or that it even grows in the first place!). We’re really proud to be a pioneering local food force and our customers can be proud too of the value that their support brings to the community and the local food movement as a whole.

What are your top tips for reducing food waste?

Firstly, try not to over-purchase. We encourage new customers to start with less than they might need and add more each week of necessary rather than ordering too much – it’s can be really overwhelming and off-putting if you don’t know what to do with the quantity of produce you’ve received! Storing produce correctly and at the right temperature helps to keep it fresher for longer – one example is storing broccoli upright in the fridge with the stem in a little bit of water, like a flower in a vase. And then freeze, juice or make smoothies, soups, chutneys, pickles or pesto out of veg that is past its best! There are so many ideas in our recipe bank, and the latest is our blog on courgettes which are in abundance at the moment.

How can people support you?

Become a VegBox customer.

Let us know if you have any suggestions for new pick-up points, even your own home, for example.

Be a Sutton Community Farm Ambassador.

To continue what we do at the farm and reduce our reliance on funding, we want to get to 400 customers within the next 2–3 years. Every day we encounter local people, sometimes even just down the road from the farm, who’ve never heard of us. Simply leafleting your street or neighbourhood will help us get our name out there, and the more people you can speak with in the process the better. Get in touch and we’ll send you some more information and leaflets.

Volunteer, either as an individual or as part of an organisation/team away-day.

Sponsor the work we do, anything from our returnable jute bags, to educational videos, staff time, a new electric delivery van or even a third phase of our Sutton People’s Kitchen project!

Come to our Harvest Festival on 10 September 2016! Bring your friends, meet the staff and volunteers and see the farm in all it’s glory. Reserve your free tickets on our Eventbrite page.

Find out more about Sutton Community Farm:

Facebook: @suttonfarm

Twitter: @suttonfarm

Instagram: @suttoncommunityfarm

Website: http://suttoncommunityfarm.org.uk

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