Latest Community Harvest Whetstone newsletter

Here’s the latest newsletter from Community Harvest Whetstone for your delectation. Note that CHW is looking to get hold of any unused tools that can be put to good use for the project, so get rummaging in your shed and drop them a line if you can help…
Welcome to the Spring issue of CHW Newsletter.
 

 

In this month’s edition:

Update on community days and social events

Visioning our future;

Visit to Canalside CSA;

Update on funding, finances and legal matters;

One last half-share available;

Spare tools;

First produce and growing news;

CHW on Twitter and Facebook;

Dates for your diary;

Much has happened since the Winter newsletter.

Here’s a summary.

Update on community days and social events.

After the Christmas break we gathered on 14th January for a film night and Xmas leftovers party at the Pavilion in Huncote. We watched “A Farm for the Future” a BBC documentary about sustainable farming and permaculture systems in the light of peak oil and climate change. It was a good way of starting the year, with inspirational ideas and food both for thought and for the body!

Members tucking in to an array of Christmas leftovers.

Back in the snow of mid February, several of the Core Group and some CHW members kept themselves warm by shovelling and barrowing loads of topsoil and compost into the polytunnel, while simultaneously dodging snowballs thrown by the children of some of the workers! Despite the cold, it was heartening to see that our salad crops were coming on a treat.

A month later, those leaves were ready to pick and some of them formed the basis of our March ‘Salad Day’ social event, where many people arrived in the morning to take part in what turned out to be a very pleasant day’s activities. Starting with a couple of hours work in the main growing plot, planting potatoes in the newly rotavated earth and covering with plenty of well rotted manure, while others planted garlic. When the dinner gong was sounded (well, more like an empty biscuit tin really) everybody headed into the tearooms where a delicious bring and share lunch was served – with a luscious green salad as its focus. Later, the satiated group took a gentle walk up the disused railway line, doubling back across open fields and around the large pond to get back to the tearooms for scones, tea and a final chat before saying goodbye.

The first potato being planted! Walking down by the 'Pond' after lunch

Above:         The first potato being planted!                    Walking down by the ‘Pond’ after lunch.

Visioning our future

In the meantime the Core Group kept meeting at regular intervals. On January 27th the group got together for a visioning exercise. No ordinary meeting, the purpose was to reflect on how far CHW has come in the past year, where each member of the group has come from and where we imagine the project could be in 5 years’ time.

The visions that emerged out of the evening reflected the nature of the project and the people involved in it: exciting and ambitious in equal measure with a healthy mix of realism and imagination. Expansion featured heavily; into new and larger fields thus increasing production, but also helping other Community Supported Agriculture projects to get off the ground, through sharing  finance and experience. A strong sense of community was a big favourite with most, along with more social diversity and achieving the much sought-after feel-good factor. The maturity of the project, coming up to full production and self-sustainability, was mentioned several times as was contributing to community education through school and group visits to the site. Lastly, many longer term ideas to diversify the project were suggested, including restoring the old greenhouse and the walled garden near the polytunnel; keeping animals, such as chickens, pigs, horses and bees; planting orchards, edible hedges and planting up the disused railway with nut and fruit crops; farmers markets and managing the woodland for firewood and charcoal production. Needless to say, there will be plenty to keep us busy for many years yet!!

It was a very useful and energising exercise which showed us how much shared vision in the project we already have. Would it be a good idea to try and do something similar with the wider membership (ie you)?

Visit to Canalside Community Food CSA

In February some Core Group members and their families (11 altogether) travelled to Radford Semele, near Leamington Spa, to visit a Community Supported Agriculture project that started 4-5 years ago and which has provided quite a bit of inspiration to our set up. The deal was that we’d help with some work on the field in exchange for a tour and a chat. So we spent the first hour weeding what felt like interminable rows of onions before we were taken on a walk round the 9 acres of land they rent from an organic farmer to produce vegetables for over 100 crop-sharers. We finished the visit at the yurt they use as a vegetable pick up point where we had more time to talk about their experience as a CSA as well as the opportunity to meet some of the crop-sharers and to appreciate the system they have set up for the vegetable collection.

They have a very good website which is useful if you want to know more about them but also to get an idea of how a CSA can look like 4 or 5 years down the line:

http://www.canalsidecommunityfood.org.uk/

Funding, finances and legal matters

As you may remember, in November and January we submitted 2 bids for funding, one to Voluntary Action Blaby District and the other to the Big Lottery Local Food Programme. Unfortunately neither were successful.

The funding would have been used to cover some of the initial costs of setting up the project (eg tools, seeds, compost and topsoil, growers wages and rabbit fencing for the expansion in the 2-acre field) beyond what we can already cover with the £3574 we have raised through the sale of 9 vegetable half-shares and 17 membership subscriptions.

We will now continue with our proposal for community financing of CHW. A few months ago two of us took part in a workshop about finances for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) projects which emphasised the importance of community involvement in financing social enterprises such as ours. We were reminded that the co-operative movement was founded on the principle of members of a community getting together and pooling their resources to set up shops, businesses and services that catered for the needs of the members, their families and their local communities. In this respect, a CSA project like Community Harvest Whetstone should be able to attract funding from community members, friends and supporters interested in making sure that we get off to a good start, we produce healthy food locally and sustainably while creating a vibrant community spirit and we keep doing so for the foreseeable future.

We are therefore in the process of registering CHW as an Industrial and Provident Society (a form of co-operative) and once formally constituted we’ll be able to offer share capital for sale to our supporters. People will be able to buy CHW financial shares (of the value of £1 each) and become involved in an innovative and sustainable business.

As soon as we have worked out the details we’ll advertise the offer to this mailing list, Transition Leicester’s contact list and at other events such as the Plant Fest, the Open Farm Sunday and an Open Meeting in early summer.

If any of you are already interested in supporting CHW by investing in financial shares please let our treasurer Keith know by email (flykeith AT ntlworld.com) or telephone (

07860 388525)

One last half-share available

There is still one half-share of vegetables available for sale. The cost is £320 and it will be payable by quarterly instalments of £80 starting from now (April, July, October, January). If you’re interested please contact our treasurer, Keith Campbell, by email (flykeith AT ntlworld.com) or by phone (07860 388525).

Any spare tools anyone?

It can also help reduce our initial costs if we can get hold of unwanted second-hand tools.

If you happen to have forks, spades, rakes, hoes, trowels or even wheelbarrows that are sitting in a shed surplus to requirement (and perhaps wondering why no-one loves them any more) please send them to the farm, they’ll sure find a loving pair of hands there.

First produce

It was really exciting, at the beginning of March, to be able to invite the 9 crop-sharers to the polytunnel to collect their first bags of fresh salad. It might sound to some like a token gesture but all were really pleased to be able to get some fresh produce from the farm after so much work, a long winter and a long wait too. May it be a good omen for many happy and plentiful harvests to come.

Some general crop news:

Above:  The CHW polytunnel in all it’s leafy glory;     Newly emerged sowings of potatoes, beans and other tasty veg

The small first sowing of new potatoes made in the polytunnel have emerged. Broad beans from the polytunnel are also up and growing nicely and a second sowing has been made in the field. Also in the tunnel the early carrots, beetroot, radish and spicy salad mix are up and away. On the brassica front the first summer cabbage and calabrese seedlings have emerged (ready to be transplanted to the field later on) and the brussel sprouts, cauliflower, winter cabbage and purple sprouting broccoli have now been sown. The tomato plants are also growing away having been potted on last weekend. All in all things are looking very good.

More growing news:

It seems appropriate at this point to celebrate the safe arrival on 19th March of Oscar Stephen Harlock to delight the lives (and nights!) of Alice and Simon.

Growing at CHW is not all about veggies!

NEW! – CHW now on Twitter and Facebook;

If you use either of these social networking sites why not use them to get the latest news from CHW, find out about events, view and upload photos & videos and communicate with other members? Join our

Facebook Group. Follow us on Twitter.Also don’t forget to check back on our website where you can find our contact details, a map showing where we are, a gallery, a calendar showing upcoming events and lots more useful stuff.

Dates for your Diary

Sunday 25th April – Scarecrow Making and other activities

(10 till 4 at the PYO fruit farm/Strawberry Tearooms)

At the social event in March we started looking at ideas and pictures of scarecrows.
On this day in April we’ll be making them and next month they’ll be on display.

Here’s an exciting introduction to the event by Elspeth, our newly appointed social events secretary:

Making Scarecrows

We thought making scarecrows would be an enjoyable project for our community, as well as hopefully useful in reducing bird-damage to our crops.

Scarecrows can take many forms. Even the traditional scarecrow (a frame of sturdy sticks, clothed and stuffed with straw) gives lots of scope for variation and creativity. But when you think you can make a person out of a window frame and some kitchen utensils, a Bacchus out of empty wine bottles, a robot out of tins, an angel out of chicken-wire and moss, or a waterfall woman out of two jugs and a shredded shower curtain (never mind a flamingo out of balloons!),…well, we can have a scarecrow ball!

I imagine it would be fun and less daunting to make scarecrows in small groups (or if you’re brave and full of inspiration you can make your very own one of course!). So have a good think, and google ‘making scarecrows’, although most of the ideas I’ve seen online are of the traditional kind. We have 2 copies of the book ‘Creative Scarecrows’ which we’ll bring along, and I’ll have my copy  with me at the Transition Café on the 17th April (12-4 Bishop St Methodist Church, town Hall Square, Leicester), where we’ll be making garden angels. We’ll also bring a scarecrow we’re working on.

So have a look at what you’ve got lying around: old clothes, a metal dustbin lid or an old pan (a wok could make a shield for a warrior), a football that’s punctured (makes a good head), broken umbrellas, vacuum-cleaner hose (robot arms and legs), shower curtain, a bit of chimney pipe (great for a hat!), old CD’s or other twinkly stuff, wool or Halloween wig, broomstick or besom for a witch, kitchen utensils, wire coathangers, chicken wire, old gardening gloves, a straw hat, stockings, bike wheels, etc, etc.

We’ll also need wire cutters and wire, straw, string, scissors, waterproof glue; please bring of those what you can. Hopefully we can get the basics worked out and set up and do some homework if necessary so we can put the finishing touches on our scarecrows before the show on the Open Day (23rd of May). With some eccentric scarecrows our field could look very festive!

Do call or email me if you want a chat (elspethsparkle AT ntlworld.com or 0116 257 1857).

Other activities on the day will include some tasks on the field like potato and onion planting or sowing sweetcorn and beans in recycled cardboard tubes.

That will take place before lunch while the afternoon will be dedicated to scarecrows.

Please bring suitable clothing, fork, spade and trowel, if you have any, and some food for the shared lunch. And all the bits and pieces and you creativity for the scarecrow making. Hot drinks will be available.

Sunday 23rd May – Whetstone Pastures Plant Fest and CHW Open Day

Like in previous years Whetstone Pastures Farm (ie Anthony and Sandra) will be holding a Plant Fest on this day in May.
Community Harvest Whetstone will be holding an Open Day at the same time. It’ll be a great opportunity to involve more people who are likely to be interested in our project.
There will be tours and talks about CHW as well as other activities such as baking your own pizza or making bags out of cloth scraps (to carry veg home!).

Plus the scarecrows will be on display.
More details will follow as soon as they are available.

Sunday 13th June – National Open Farm Sunday

Like in previous years Whetstone Pastures Farm is involved in this national event (see:

http://www.farmsunday.org/ofs/visit/event_details.eb?guid=2RRVTHNXTS.7ROMMCWYBDQBY).CHW will have a stall to promote the project and involve more people in view of the expansion in the 2-acre field.

Advance notice of Open Meeting

At the end of June or beginning of July CHW will be holding an Open meeting similar to the one some of you attended back in June 2009. The purpose of the gathering will be to get an update on the project, have a chance to visit the site, attract more people and wider participation and explain the ways in which supporters can get involved (veg shares, financial shares, membership, volunteering and so on).

Above:  Snapshots of last year’s meeting – time to chat, view the site and have fun!

Details for this event – including the date – have not been finalised. It’ll probably take place on a Wednesday night, either 30th June or 7th July. Watch this space or keep an eye on the website and local media for more info.

That’s about it for now, we hope to see you soon at any of the above events.

Dani Pattuzzi (

dani.pattuzzi AT googlemail.com)
Mike Smith (
mike_maple AT ntlworld.com)(On behalf of CHW Core Group)

PS: If you’ve never been to the Fruit fields/Strawberry tearooms here’s how to get there:

Coming from Leicester/Aylstone/Glen Parva, follow the A426 south down the Blaby bypass. Get to the end of the dual carriageway then look for the 3rd on your left (1st is a tiny lane, 2nd is Cosby/Countesthorpe Crossroads and the 3rd is ours – signed Whetstone Gorse). The Pick-Your-Own Fruit Fields and Strawberry tearooms are down that lane, 200 yards on the left.

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