Veg box schemes have soared in popularity as demand has grown for local, organic food.
But on the border of Coventry is a box scheme with a twist.
Started last year, Five Acre Farm is a project involving 60 households who fund a weekly veg box scheme for the Coventry and Rugby area.
By paying yearly membership, and a weekly fee for their veg, the members fund the role of a full-time grower who tends the five acres throughout the year, filling the boxes with organic goodies grown on the site.
Now, celebrating a full year since its first harvest, the community farm is ready to increase its membership and even hopes to inspire similar schemes.
Full-time grower Susan Brown came to Coventry last year after running similar community farming schemes in Scotland and Yorkshire.
She says: “Of course, I like to think the attraction for new members is the veg! But I think the community and social aspects have a large role to play, too.
“People are really concerned about where their food is coming from.
“In the supermarket you can buy certain organic products but it’s quite hard to get fresh produce that’s both organic and local.
“The only way to get this quality of organic freshness is to grow it yourself, but most people don’t have time to grow their own fruit and veg.”
Membership of the farm costs £24 a year, allowing those who sign up to join in with work parties or social events as and when they like.
And an extra weekly fee entitles them to a share of the produce.
A full share, costing £10 a week, provides enough fruit and veg for a family, while a half-share, costing £6, is more suitable for single people or couples.
“Since we started we’ve had more than 1,000 people helping out on the field at one point or another,” says Susan.
“Some are regulars, while others might have only been along once or twice.
“People have been sharing recipes and experimenting with different ways of cooking, and it’s great to hear people say ‘This has actually changed the way I eat’.
“I remember that happening to me when I first started getting a veg box years ago. You learn to work with it, rather than the old mentality of ‘I want this dish tonight so I will buy all these ingredients’.
“It really connects you with the seasons.”
Last year’s spring drought followed by a washout summer gave the farm a difficult year for its launch.
But while the squashes were eaten by a deluge of slugs and the beans struggled to survive the downpours, other produce prevailed, keeping members coming back for more.
“People have raved about the carrots,” says founder member, Esther Reeves. “It’s such an ordinary vegetable but the ones from the farm have been just fantastic.
“Of course, you can buy lots of vegetables at the supermarket or you can get a box of organic veg delivered if you want to.
“But here it’s different because you can come and actually see it growing – and you know who it’s being grown by.”
Five Acre was the brainchild of Transition Coventry, a local group in a national network focused on more sustainable living, and when unused land was offered by Garden Organic in Ryton, it leapt at the chance to take it on.
Esther says: “We had our first meeting last year in January and we had crops in the field by March.
“Living in a city I don’t think people thought we had a chance to get involved in anything other than growing in our own back gardens.
“But this has been an ideal way to show that you can do community level farming and regain that connection between the farmer and the people who are eating the produce.
“It’s not just about growing vegetables, it’s about people working together and bringing back that sense of community.”
* You can join Five Acre Farm as a social member or sign up for a veg share.
Potential members are welcome to turn up to a work morning, every Tuesday and Saturday from 10am to 1pm, to find out more at the site at Garden Organic off Wolston Lane, Ryton.
You can sign up or find out more through the website www.fiveacrefarm.org.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org