Community agri-vision outlined at CoFarm site
A total of 147 people went to the CoFarm start-up community farm project consultation at the Horizon Resource Centre at Coldhams Lane on Saturday (March 30).
Organised by Gavin Shelton, the project involves a seven-acre site off Barnwell Road privately owned by landowners sympathetic to the project’s aims. Gavin, with support from Allia, has a Farm Business Tenancy. The plan is to grow food which will benefit the local community, and those disadvantaged in particular.
Speaking to the Cambridge Independent at the centre, Gavin said: “A lot will come out of the consultation today, but two acres of the site will probably be a biointensive market garden, to grow as much food as possible without using pesticides or fertilisers. The rest will be optimised for community cohesion and biodiversity, plus some shade and shelter – maybe some simple wooden structures if it’s chucking it down. It’s really important it feels fantastic and welcoming to everybody.”
Visitors were given tours to the site – three minutes walk away – by Rachel Steward who lives in the same village as Gavin: Fulbourn. Her background is in community learning. “It must work as a farm,” she says, “which will support 200 households but it’s also for local schools and organisations to use as a resource. People are letting us know about what they value as a site and there’s all sorts of things you can do as a farm to add extra interest. It could be a water resource or some sort of wildlife feature – a bee colony or community orchard, a picnic area.... It’s about capitalising what you’ve got here – trees, shrubs, a brook running along the side of the road which adds to an idyllic feel – it’s a secretive oasis.”
The next stage is to consult more widely with the community. There’s a survey, the search is on for an agro-ecologist, plus a crowdfunding campaign is being prepared. Gavin is optimistic that local businesses will be wanting to get involved, to make use of the space as a wellbeing centre. But growing food is central.
“We need to rethink about agriculture and food,” Gavin says, “so we need to farm in a very low-impact way, so we’ll have a two-wheel tractor.
“Food banks do an amazing job but ultimately they don’t provide any fresh produce which is what people need.”