NRFC

Call for volunteers

We’re now looking for volunteers for our in-person conference in Lancaster on 2-3 December. Find out more about what’s involved.

We’d love to hear from people already working in food and farming, or with a keen interest in transforming our food systems.

We’re asking volunteers to attend a training session at 9am on 2 December.

Please apply by 16 November. We’re accepting applications on a rolling basis, so be quick!

Meal-time musings: bring your lunch and have a chat!

Hosted by members of the NRFC team. 

Everyone is welcome to join us for informal meal-time musings. The NRFC team will host these friendly sessions, so feel free to join for 10 minutes or the whole session. Chat, connect and reflect with others over your lunch!

Exploring the benefits of diversity in Agriculture

Hosted by researchers and artists at Newcastle University.

Our panel discussion session explored the research and experiences of people who are traditionally not seen as on the front lines of agriculture. Attendees gained insight into the work being done to expand accessibility in and to agriculture as well as perspectives from individuals who have previously been seen as ‘outsiders’. Additionally, the session highlighted the benefits of diversity to a successful agricultural sector.

Speakers/hosts:

Sally Shortall is the Duke of Northumberland Professor of Rural Economy, Newcastle University in the UK, and an Honorary Professor in Queen’s University Belfast. She is interested in agriculture, farm families, and the role of women in agriculture. She has carried out research on women in agriculture for the FAO, the European Parliament, the European Commission and is currently advising the European Court of Auditors on gender mainstreaming the European Agriculture Guidance Fund.

Dr Ruth McAreavey is a Reader in Sociology at Newcastle University. Ruth grew up on a farm in County Armagh. Her research is focused on migration to rural and regional places and she is also interested in wider questions of rural development and regeneration. She has recently completed research for the Scottish Government on seasonal agricultural workers and her monograph on migration was published with Routledge in 2017. She is currently co-editor of Sociologia Ruralis.

Hannah Budge is an ESRC funded PhD student at the Centre of Rural Economy, Newcastle University, UK. Her thesis will examine the role of women in agriculture in the Scottish Islands, looking at the barriers in this industry experienced between and within these communities. This project will focus on factors such as the various land tenure systems on the islands and religious differences and if these impact on agriculture communities.

Joanne Coates is an artist in residence for the Centre Rural Economy at Newcastle University and has been exploring reasons for gender bias as part of her residency. Although the Covid-19 lockdown has halted her artwork, she highlights how feminism and women’s leadership are viewed in farming and further afield.

Hannah Davis is a Lecturer in Ruminant Nutrition and Pasture Management at Newcastle University. Hannah’s research aims to understand how dairy management practices affect milk quality, animal health and environmental impact with a view to optimise sustainable farming systems. As a PhD researcher, this included studying the fat composition of cow milk produced under different management practices (conventional, organic, 100% forage-fed) and analysing data from the Low Input Breeds project (www.lowinputbreeds.org) to identify breed combinations best suited to low-input diary production. Outside of research, Hannah is a member of the LGBT+ steering group at Newcastle University as well as a Trustee of the Bill Quay Community Farming Association in Gateshead.

A blog post about the outcomes of the session is available here.

Public Money for Public Good? How can small-scale producers maximize opportunities offered by public sector procurement?

Hosted by FoodFutures and Lancaster University with experts.

How can small scale food producers access larger scale contracts offered by public sector and other anchor institutions in their local area? What are the opportunities and challenges posed by taking this route to market? This session was  a chance for farmers and producers to have their questions answered by a panel of people with experience of working at different scales, from national to local, to create opportunities for small-scale sustainable producers to benefit from public procurement.

The Q&A session was with a mixture of producers with experience of different models of procurement. Panelists included:

– Greg Parsons (POM Support and the National Advisory Board for Dynamic Procurement)
– Duncan Catchpole (Cambridge Food Hub)
– Nicky Stonebridge (Lower Hurst Organics)
– Ebba Wilhelmsson (“Modellodlingen” Gothenburg)
– Chris Walsh (Manchester Veg People/Kindling Trust)

Prior to the session a video conversation with three members of the National Advisory Board for Dynamic Procurement was shared on the event website. This group have been instrumental in developing a pilot for a Dynamic Purchasing System for food procurement within central and local government. In this conversation we discussed how this pilot has the potential to facilitate access to public sector markets for smaller scale, sustainable growers and how producers might work to benefit from this.

Speakers/hosts:

Greg Parsons has a 30 year career in food and drink with a wealth of experience in working with food businesses to develop markets with retailers, caterers and large regional employers. In 2014, Greg founded Somerset Larder a collaboration of SME food and drink suppliers to provide a one stop catering service for local businesses using locally sourced, high quality food. In October 2017 Greg left Somerset Larder in ‘rude health’ with over 50 local suppliers, 94 employees (including 20 apprenticeships) spending over £3m PA in the local economy, to pursue other opportunities and develop his own venture, POM support Ltd. Through POM Greg now works across the food and drink industry using his experience and contacts to help small and medium sized businesses and collaborations to exploit their potential through Projects, Operations and Marketing. For the past 3 years Greg been working with Menter Môn and Welsh Government on the Môn Larder project looking at equality of provision within public procurement, and the creation of opportunities for food and drink businesses in North Wales. In his role for the National Advisory Board for Dynamic Food Procurement, Greg is leading a steering group in the South West to set up a ‘pilot’ for food and drink supply to public procurement, working with Crown Commercial Services. In May 2020 the ‘South West Food Hub’ was incorporated as a ‘Community Interest Company’ and presented with a memorandum of understanding to prepare to South West region for the impending changes in public sector procurement. You can find out more about the work of the National Board for Dynamic Food Procurement here: https://www.dynamicfood.org/

Duncan Catchpole is a social entrepreneur with more than twenty years’ experience in the organic and sustainable food sector. Duncan is the founder and owner of The Cambridge Organic Food Co.; an organic vegetable box scheme enterprise which was established in 1998. He is also project leader of the Cambridge Food Hub project, which is building a ‘local food ecosystem’ in the region. This is a way of structuring local food supply chains in such a way that lessens the environmental impact of food, minimises waste, improves connectivity between local food businesses and leads to more equitable distribution of food throughout the community. Duncan is also a committee member of Cambridge Sustainable Food; the organisation responsible for Cambridge’s inclusion in the national Sustainable Food Cities network. More recently Duncan has become involved with the Harmony Project; an initiative run by the Sustainable Food Trust and inspired by HRH The Prince of Wales’ book ‘Harmony; A New Way of Looking at our World’. Duncan is interested in the way the principles of Harmony can be implemented in commercial processes and systems, and in particular how the attributes of balance and interconnectivity can lead to improved efficiency and the elimination of waste.

Nicky Stonebridge works for Lower Hurst Farm, an organic farm in the Peak District National Park owned by Andrew Sebire. The farm has been organic since 1998 and they rear Hereford Cattle for beef production. In 2006 the farm shop was struggling to turn a profit on its sale of beef cuts and the farm started to explore different market opportunities. At the same time Jamie Oliver had just launched a campaign to improve the quality of food provided in schools and the Soil Association Food for Life scheme had just been formed. The timing was right and Lower Hurst Farm approached the local village school to see how meat from the farm could be supplied to them. This trial was successful and Lower Hurst Farm decided that it should supply into more schools. The process was far more complicated than the farm team had initially thought and Nicky was brought in to lead and set up a dedicated food business to produce and supply into the school food market. Nicky’s background was in Stock and Sales Merchandising and Marketing for a national retail group, but as a mother of three children herself she was keen that good, locally sourced food should be made available in schools. The Organic Food for Schools business grew and supplied organic meat products into more than 200 schools.  In 2019 the business was awarded Supplier Champion by the Soil Association in recognition of the work the Lower Hurst team has achieved with school caterers. In 2020 despite the set-backs that we have all endured from the Covid-19 pandemic, we see the positive outcomes of people reconnecting with local business and understanding how important small producers are to the food chain. You can read more about Lower Hurst Farm here: http://www.lowerhurstfarm.co.uk/

Chris Walsh is an accomplished social entrepreneur and has helped establish two of Manchester’s largest and best-loved social enterprises; Bridge 5 Mill eco-centre and Fairfield Environment Services. He then went on to co-found the Kindling Trust in 2007, with the belief that ‘good food is a fundamental human right and a powerful force for positive social change’.
Chris played a key role in developing Manchester Veg People – a multi stakeholder co-operative of growers and buyers. Before lock-down the co-op was on target to sell over £250,000 of organic veg to the public sector, cafes and restaurants. He is an active member of a team who explores new procurement opportunities and maintains relationships with existing customers. Learn more about Manchester Veg People here: https://www.vegpeople.org.uk/newsite/

Ebba Wilhelmsson is the farm manager at the Model Farm Gothenburg where she is employed by the Property Management Department at the Municipality of Gothenburg. The Model Farm is a highly productive small-scale farm unit, providing food and education. By showcasing a business model behind a sustainable and successful small-scale farming enterprise run within a municipality, the Model Farm will serve as a driver for the integration of regenerative farming practices in the continuous evolution of urban and rural multifunctional landscapes. The farm is located on Gothenburg’s outskirts on municipal land, and the produce from the farm is delivered to schools, preschools, and old people’s homes. Around 40 different vegetables are grown on permanent, raised beds on 585 square meters (efficient bed use). The principles of market gardening and the techniques of biointensive agriculture are being used. The farm is a part of the European project SATURN, financed by EIT Climate-KIC with partners in Trento and Birmingham. To follow the development on the farm, visit their Instagram page: Modellodlingen.

Chris Walsh is an accomplished social entrepreneur and has helped establish two of Manchester’s largest and best-loved social enterprises; Bridge 5 Mill eco-centre and Fairfield Environment Services. He then went on to co-found the Kindling Trust in 2007, with the belief that ‘good food is a fundamental human right and a powerful force for positive social change’. Chris played a key role in developing Manchester Veg People –  a multi stakeholder co-operative of growers and buyers. Before lock-down the co-op was on target to sell over £250,000 of organic veg to the public sector, cafes and restaurants.  He is an active member of a team who explores new procurement opportunities and maintains relationships with existing customers. Learn more about Manchester Veg People here: https://www.vegpeople.org.uk/newsite/

You can read the session outcomes here.

All about Community Supported Agriculture

Hosted by Community Supported Agriculture Network UK with CSA farmers.

Are you thinking about setting up or converting to a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model? Then this session is for you!

This is a practical session run by the CSA Network UK to answer some commonly asked questions and get you started. After a brief introduction to CSA participants will be able to choose to go into a group focusing on a specific topic and then move to a second topic for the second half of the session. Groups will be led by experienced individuals and participants will be able to discuss and ask questions.

Topics will include: Crop planning and scaling up production; Marketing and promoting your CSA and recruiting members; creating a founding group, legal structures and finance; Community-led CSA and how to run a producer-led CSA.

Speakers/hosts:

Gareth Davies is a passionate advocate of local food production and helped to set up Canalside Community Food CSA. As well as being a member of the steering committee, he helped establish an orchard and do the book keeping, finances and business planning. Recently he helped to set up Five Acre Community Farm on land rented from Garden Organic. He has also worked as a researcher with Garden Organic/HDRA looking at weeds, pest and diseases and varieties among other topics.

Ben Raskin has worked in horticulture for more than 20 years and has a wide range of practical commercial growing experience. For the Soil Association, he provides growers at all levels of production with technical, marketing, policy, supply chain and networking support. He also leads on their Agroforestry work. Ben is an author of gardening books for children and grownups. He is also currently implementing a 200-acre agroforestry planting in Wiltshire. Ben also co-chairs the newly formed Defra Edibles Horticulture Roundtable and sits on the boards of the Organic Growers Alliance.

Charlotte Barry spends a lot of time on her hands and knees growing and harvesting vegetables, as well as cooking and eating them! She is a founder member of Camel CSA in Cornwall, set up on two acres of rented land near Wadebridge in 2008. So she has plenty of hands-on experience running a community veg box scheme and working with volunteers. She also kept and bred poultry for many years. Her specific skills are in media and digital communications, arising from her career as a journalist, renewable energy publicist, media trainer and university lecturer. Follow Camel CSA on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Rosa Bevan and James Reid run Tap o’ Noth Farm; an 8 acre, permaculture designed smallholding in rural north east Scotland. They operate a CSA market garden and veg box scheme from a quarter of an acre with a 20 week season for 50 shares. The veg box has been running for 5 years as a producer led CSA scheme and is one of just a handful of CSAs in Scotland.

Roger Plumtree from Kirkstall Valley CSA. Roger’s father was a farmer and his involvement as one of the leading figures in Kirkstall Valley CSA has taken him back to his roots. He is a keen supporter of the community supported agriculture model – and is also quick to stress the value of producing organic food, using natural pest control. He’s inspired by the smallholding model of agriculture the Chinese have mastered as a way forward for this country.

Mick Marston from Gibside CSA. Mick has previously worked for the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens and for the Soil Association in Northern England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. He is a founder member of Gibside Community Farm

Jo Cartwright is from Swillington Organic Farm, a CSA on a mixed family farm outside Leeds

Suzy Russell has worked in environmental and arts-based community development for over 20 years and has skills and experience in relationship building, strategic management, leadership and income generation. She started out organising an environmental arts festival and running a community environmental centre in the North East before living in Spain for six years where she worked with a community street theatre group and set up an environmental community development project. More recently she’s been CEO at participatory arts organisation in West Yorkshire, building skills and knowledge in health and training and alongside this learning to teach mindfulness. She’s always had a patch to grow on, albeit with a wide range of growing conditions. She’s passionate about local food, wellbeing, creativity, nature, community and the magic of everyday life.

Unlocking land for CSA in the North of England: Challenges and Opportunities

Hosted by Community Supported Agriculture Network UK with perspectives from a panel of experts.

How can we access more land for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms and other small-scale regenerative agriculture in the North of England? Why is it so difficult to access land and what can we do to unlock more?
Hear from a fantastic panel of speakers coming at the topic from a range of angles. Panelists are Kate Swade (Shared Assets); Helen Woodcock (Kindling Trust); Graeme Willis (CPRE) and Guy Shrubsole (Environmental Campaigner) and the session is hosted by the CSA Network UK.

Speakers/hosts:

Kate Swade is Shared Assets’ co-executive director. She has over 15 years’ experience helping local authorities and communities collaborate in stewardship of their environments and neighbourhoods. She has designed and delivered qualitative and quantitative research projects at a variety of scales, and is an experienced trainer and facilitator. She has experience as a consultant to as well as an employee of land based social enterprises, supporting the creation of numerous business and governance models, and the crafting of business plans and strategies. She works across the full range of Shared Assets work including policy, research, consultancy and advocacy, and leads on organisational development and culture. Kate is a trustee of Toynbee Hall, a social justice charity in East London.

Graeme Willis is farming lead in the Rural Economy and Communities team at CPRE, the countryside charity. He joined CPRE in 2006 and launched new tranquillity and intrusion maps. He went on to manage research on local food webs across England. More recently he has written on farm diversity (New Model Farming, 2016), the loss of smaller farms (Uncertain harvest, 2017) and on agroecological management of soils (Back to the land, 2018). His current interests are: promoting better use of county farms and changing land use to address the climate emergency. Graeme was previously a senior lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University and tutor and research officer at Essex University where he gained an M.Env in Environment, Science and Society. He grew up in Cheshire where he regularly worked on family farms.

Helen Woodcock is a founding member of Greater Manchester’s Kindling Trust – working to create a fairer, more sustainable food system for Manchester and beyond. Over the last 13 years Helen has helped establish Kindling’s practical initiatives including our FarmStart programme, to encourage and support a new generation of organic growers; Woodbank Community Food Hub; and Kindling’s sister co-operatives Manchester Veg People and Veg Box People, to create fairer markets for organic growers and make local organic food accessible to all. Helen is currently focused on establishing the Kindling Farm, a 100+ acre organic agroforestry farm for the Northwest.

Guy Shrubsole is an environmental campaigner and author of Who Owns England? (William Collins, 2019), a book that delves into the secrecy surrounding land ownership, why it’s so unequal, and why that matters for how we use land. Guy helped co-author a recent report, Reviving County Farms, about the sell-off of council-owned farms, with NEF, Shared Assets and CPRE; and he’s currently campaigning to get a ban on moorland burning by grouse moor estates, coax landowners into investing more in natural climate solutions, and extend Right to Roam.

Suzy Russell has worked in environmental and arts-based community development for over 20 years and has skills and experience in relationship building, strategic management, leadership and income generation. She started out organising an environmental arts festival and running a community environmental centre in the North East before living in Spain for six years where she worked with a community street theatre group and set up an environmental community development project. More recently she’s been CEO at participatory arts organisation in West Yorkshire, building skills and knowledge in health and training and alongside this learning to teach mindfulness. She’s always had a patch to grow on, albeit with a wide range of growing conditions. She’s passionate about local food, wellbeing, creativity, nature, community and the magic of everyday life.