Category Archives: About us

Open Days

Our open days are designed to introduce local people to the farm and make an enjoyable time for all. We choose to do them on bank holiday Mondays so that can have a good day out in the country without having to go too far!

We open the gates at 10am and provide special activities for all the family. We recommend bringing a picnic (although sometimes we are able to to provide a lunch) and allowing yourself plenty of time to wander around, exploring and enjoying.

  • Monday 17 April – Easter Hunt and Picnic
  • Monday 29 May – Grow Your Own –
    • this open day will be with only minimal extra activities as we are short staffed.  There will be shop, plant sale and refreshments with a few simple playthings put out for you.
  • Monday 28 August – Harvest and Preserve
  • Sunday 15 October – Apple Juicing

Themes 2017

Below is a high-level view of our efforts for 2017 and what we hope to achieve. We use themes to give overall guidance to our day to day planning. We have some themes that relate to our maturing as an organisation and others that we would like to explore if we have time and resources.

Maturity themes

As an organisation we are entering our third full year. We have identified themes around our maturing and use them to describe our core activities and the things we want to achieve this year.

Scaling up sales of produce

2016 was like an apprenticeship in growing vegetables. In 2015 we had been clearing the nettles and brambles over the majority of the site. Then last year we identified our growing beds and had our first go at growing significant quantities of annual plants like beans and lettuces. This year we are planning to produce a significant range and quantity of fresh produce and develop markets for it. We will be selling directly to local residents from our own covered stall (built summer 2016). We will also be selling to local green grocers such as the Veg Shed, who bought a significant quantity of beetroots from us at the end of the 2016 season.

Increasing staffing levels to support growth

In order to support this scaled up production of fruit and veg we need to ensure we have sufficient staff resources to plan and oversee the work. The development of the farm over the last 2 years has been made possible by our staff members Adam and Richard who are each paid for 0.5 day per week, totaling 0.2 full time equivalent (FTE) but who have voluntarily worked an additional 1.5 days and 4.5 days each week respectively (total of 1.4 FTE). Due to changes in Adam’s family commitments he needs 3 days paid work per week from March 2017. This increase in his availability fits with our increased need for his time. As our income from produce and on-site activities is growing we are seeking to pay Adam and Richard for the days they each work on the farm (total of 1.6 FTE)

Developing team leader volunteers

Since October 2016 we have been opening the farm every Saturday to sell produce and to facilitate volunteer sessions. Before this time we were only open for sales during the day on Wednesday and Friday and for volunteering on Thursdays and Fridays. The Saturday sessions are gaining in popularity, with good turn out even in January 2017. This is increasing our customer base and gaining us new volunteers. Because we are open on Saturdays we have also been able to host Bike2Basics, a social enterprise offering a bike doctor clinic. Besides giving us a small venue hire income this is adding to the numbers of visitors to the farm and providing a very good service to local residents. It is Richard who takes the main responsibility for staffing Saturdays. For Saturdays to be sustainable we need to develop Team Leader Volunteers who can take charge on Saturdays when Richard is not available.

Improving basic amenities

We want to increase involvement on the farm – to do this we need to provide better toilets, hand-washing and social spaces on the farm. We need our own electricity supply and drinking water supply. We want to make our own compost-based toilet system rather than using the outside toilet on the house next door. We need a hand-wash area that can cope with groups, rather than using the outside toilet on the house next door. We need to increase our solar panel and battery system so we can have comprehensive lighting in the barn that is reliable on darker days. We would like to have a washing up facility for clearing away our tea and coffee and lunch crockery (currently Richard takes it back to his home and washes up there in the evening).

Encouraging more local involvement

We will continue reaching out to the local community to increase the number of people benefiting from the farm. We will continue to welcome visitors when the shop is open. We will hold open days on the bank holidays throughout the year. And we will start a new weekly group for parents/carers and pre-school children.

Providing educational opportunities

We are going to create opportunities to encourage local residents to learn from activities on the farm and develop their own food-producing skills at home. We will devise a range of workshops where people can come and try their hand at growing food. We will provide practical support for growing at home – such as seedlings and containers to take home. We also want school children to visit us and learn first hand about sustainable food production.

Bringing all the site into use

We have three spaces still to be cleared for use. First there is an area of scrub earmarked for our second compost bay area. Secondly there is an area of old pig sties with willow and laurel growing out of it that we want to clear so we can use it for storage. Finally there is a large mass of concrete hard standing at the heart of the site which we would like to remove to make space for growing beds. This is a considerable undertaking.

Exploration themes

These themes describe the things we are hoping to explore in order to develop our future capabilities.

  • Office. Richard and Adam do not have a permanent dry and warm place to carry out the administrative and planning tasks necessary for running the farm. We will evaluate alternatives for creating this space on the farm.
  • Learning space and kitchen. Central to our plans for increasing income is the need for a teaching space for workshops, which would include a kitchen for preparing refreshments and a place to eat lunch. We would also use the kitchen for preserving produce, preparing food for volunteers and for serving refreshments at the shop.
  • AquaponicsIn September 2016 we had a Business in the Community day which included some investment in purchasing equipment for growing fish and plants in an inter-connected system. We are modifying and developing this system and will see how productive it can be.
  • Mushroom logs. We can grow mushrooms on logs. When we get fresh logs we can inoculate them and leave them in a damp and cool place and after a few months we get a harvest of mushrooms to sell. This is something to start doing this year.
  • Extra land. We are at the stage when we could consider using more land. We will be looking into what could be possible regards using more of the land in the valley.

Action List

These are the headline actions arising from our themes.

  1. Plan and execute vegetable production.
  2. Develop our budgets to pay Adam 3 days per week and Richard 5 days per week.
  3. Recruit and train Team Leader Volunteers to lead Saturday sessions.
  4. Get quotes for electricity supply and mains water connection; develop a plan for toilets, hand-wash, lighting, washing-up and seating for groups of 15-20.
  5. Plan open days; plan a parent and toddler group.
  6. Develop a plan for hosting workshops at the farm.
  7. Clear second compost bay site and make compost bays; clear willows and laurel from old pig sties; break up and remove concrete from the main yard.

Richard Pitt / Adam Brown
01 February 2017

Co-operative principles

How do co-operative organisations work? Here are the 7 principles by which co-operatives put their values into practice, adapted for Aldermoor Community Farm.

It is a bit dry, but it’s powerful stuff.

1. Voluntary and Open Membership

You don’t have to become a member to use our services – membership is voluntary. And no-one is excluded – we are open to everyone who wants to join in and is willing to accept the responsibilities of membership.

2. Democratic Member Control

We are a democratic organisation controlled by our members, who actively participate in setting our policies and making decisions. We elect our own directors from our membership and they are are accountable to the membership. Members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote), regardless of any other contribution they have made to the farm (such as materials, voluntary work, or financial grant.

3. Member Economic Participation

Some cooperatives are started by all members putting money in to get it going. We did not make it a requirement, but from time to time members have put their own money into the farm to buy equipment. Other members have put money into the farm in the form of withdrawable share capital, which they can one day receive back. If we have any profit, we decide together at our AGM how to use it. We could decide to use profits to develop the farm more; to set up reserves; to give a dividend to members in proportion to how much they have spent in the farm shop; to support other similar co-operatives or activities.

4. Autonomy and Independence

We are an autonomous, self-help organisation controlled by our members. If we raise capital from external sources, we do so on terms that ensure democratic control by our members and maintain our co-operative autonomy.

5. Education, Training and Information

We provide education and training for our members, directors, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of the co-operative. We try to inform the general public – particularly young people and opinion leaders – about the nature and benefits of co-operation.

6. Co-operation among Co-operatives

Despite being a very small, new organisation, we try to play our part in strengthening the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

7. Concern for Community

We work for the sustainable development of our communities through policies approved by our members.

Co-operative values

The co-operative movement is based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity.

These were the values identified by the Rochdale Pioneers in 1844. When you read their story, you realise how important each value was to the success of that first co-operative.

The values are important to us because they define our common ground. You might think of them as the essence of the organisation that is our community farm. They are the reasons we as individuals have joined up as members to do something positive together. They are also there in the background whenever we make decisions, helping us choose what to do.

Here are a few words to explain each value:

  • Self-help – believing that we can improve things for ourselves by working together
  • Self-responsibility – taking responsibly for our own actions and involvement
  • Democracy – all members having a say in the way we run the farm: “one member – one vote”
  • Equality – equal rights and benefits for all members
  • Equity – trying to understand and allow for each other’s different needs, and so be fair to all
  • Solidarity – supporting each other and other co-operatives

The Rochdale Pioneers were also united in their belief in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others. Ethics are the ways you can expect an organisation to treat people. So you should find in your dealings with the farm that we are honest with you, we are open with you, we act for the benefit of society as a whole and we care for others.

There is a global organisation for co-operatives, with further info about principles and values, the International Cooperative Alliance.

Starting from nothing

I am at the beginning.

Starting from scratch isn’t easy. No one is giving instructions. There are no routines. We have nothing in the ground growing.

I always said I’d never run my own business, and here I am doing just that. In addition my business partner is my wife and I always said I’d never run a business with family. It is all new. We are starting a community farm. We are designing a permaculture small-holding. We are designing a scheme to help people who are out of work. I have never done any of these before.

The site we are acquiring is thoroughly overgrown. Nature is very busy covering everything with brambles, self-seeded oak saplings and willows. It is shelter to roe deer, badger, fox and many, many birds. In terms of farming, it is a blank sheet.

Looking across Aldermoor Farm

Everywhere I look I see a blank sheet.

But I am not without resources.

  • Faith – God is breathing life and joy into me all the time as I think of what Aldermoor Farm will become. The steps we have taken to get this far are in themselves a great comfort and example of His involvement and guiding. His promises are ultimately the foundation we are building on.
  • Friends – the ‘community’ part of community farm is evident already. So many people offering moral and practical support.
  • Permaculture resources – an equipping methodology and body of knowledge. I have courage to go on because those who have gone before freely share their knowledge.
  • Time – I no longer have the commitment of regular paid work.
  • Co-operative company – we have a registered organisation to carry things forward.

So I am not at the very beginning. I can see that we have begun.

Starting from scratch isn’t easy. There are no routines telling us what to do. There is nothing in the ground growing. But we are growing something. We are growing our own organisation. We are telling ourselves what to do and building a vision, a dream. We are building it as we want it to be.

If you look across the farm now, you don’t see anything growing, but we are already growing something, and we are growing that from nothing.

Better go and get on with it then!