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Community agri-vision outlined at CoFarm site




Horizon Resource Centre, open meeting /consutation for CoFarm start-up community farming project. Picture: Keith Heppell. (8168093)
Horizon Resource Centre, open meeting /consutation for CoFarm start-up community farming project. Picture: Keith Heppell. (8168093)

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.”

CoFarm founder Gavin Shelton talks to visitors at the Horizon Resource Centre open meeting Picture: Keith Hepple
CoFarm founder Gavin Shelton talks to visitors at the Horizon Resource Centre open meeting Picture: Keith Hepple

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.

CoFarm's Rachel Steward at the seven-acre site off the Barnwell Road
CoFarm's Rachel Steward at the seven-acre site off the Barnwell Road

“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.”



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