Stroud Community Agriculture – a farm with opportunity
Stroud Community Agriculture is looking for a new Head Grower. We are a 350 member CSA farming 70 acres of land on 3 sites in Gloucestershire, producing both vegetables and meat for our community of members. The horticulture unit consists of 9 acres of field vegetable and 1,000 square metres of polytunnels on two separate sites. The livestock is managed by our farmer, and the horticulture unit by our head grower.
Stroud Community Agriculture was one of the first ‘CSA’ initiatives to be established in the UK. It began in 2002 and since then has been successfully providing locally grown biodynamic produce to a committed community of local families. A sense of fairness and social responsibility has underpinned SCA from the very beginning, and its aim has always been to ensure that no one who wishes to participate is excluded. Environmental responsibility, sustainable practices and ecological mindfulness are also high priorities.
Thanks to the support of its community the farm is also a viable business. It is a social enterprise with a mutually beneficial arrangement between the community and the farmers – the community provides the farmers and growers with an income and the farmers supply produce in return. Fairness, balance and a participative way of working are fundamental.
The farming approach is entirely organic. The soil is kept in good heart with the farm’s own composts and animal manures, the cattle and sheep are grass fed and the farm is as self-sufficient as possible. Biodynamic measures are also applied to enhance the vitality of the crops, improve livestock health and develop soil fertility.
As a formally constituted cooperative SCA is a tenant of two charities (Hawkwood College and Wynstones School) and most recently also of another local farmer. Immediately adjoining the land at Hawkwood is Oakbrook Farm, a newly established community project supplying organic milk and dairy products. There is a good working relationship with this farm and many SCA members are part of both.
SCA is also concerned for the future of farming and rents a few acres of land at Oakbrook to enable aspiring young farmers to gain experience in running their own enterprise. SCA has in the past also participated in a full apprenticeship programme and given the right farm constellation could so again.
Members of SCA are encouraged to engage with the farm in many different ways apart from contributing financially and receiving produce. They can volunteer on the farm, bring their children, arrange events, camp, have picnics and generally identify with the land. They can also help guide and manage aspects of the farm through an elected core group.
One of the challenges the farm has had to contend with is being based on three locations which lie four miles apart from one another. The logistical issues of transport and travel between them have to be carefully managed. On the upside however the different soil types (lighter shale and heavier clay) mean that seasonal differences can often be balanced out between them. Rationalising how the different areas of land are used, creating a purpose-built and secure place for storing, packing and collecting produce and developing a pedigree herd of Hereford cattle are among the future plans currently being considered.
Over the last eighteen years the farm has become a stable and successful community farm enterprise. Its finances are sound and there is much that can be built on. This is due largely to the relatively simple community support structure and to the continuity and commitment of those carrying the farm during this time. It has been so successful in fact that one might imagine continuing in this way for another twenty years. That would however be a mistake since change is not only inevitable but essential.
The founding horticulturalist who has carefully nurtured this enterprise for so many years, is leaving at the end of the year. All that has been built up and developed under his watch stands the farm in good stead and whoever comes to join the farm team will be joining a well-oiled system. New challenges however will inevitably require new ideas. A new member of the team will have ample opportunities together with the farm team and the farm core group, to introduce new ideas, be creative and help guide the farm into the future.
Head Grower position
Upwards of £24k. Matched pension contributions up to 3%. Weekly vegetable share. Holiday allowance is 20 days plus 8 bank holidays.
As to be expected in such a role, while the working week is approximately 40 hours, the working hours can lie outside the regular 9-5, Monday – Friday office hours, with seasonal variations.
- You will be required to undertake all aspects of veg growing including post harvest
- Plan and manage year round cropping on small mechanised scale
- Plan a weekly veg share for 350 members (some vegetables are bought in to supplement the share).
- Plan and manage the farm budget alongside the farmer
- Co-manage a small team of staff alongside the farmer
Skills and Abilities
- Have several years experience of organic growing
- Willingness to work as part of a community run organisation
- Capability of operating farm machinery and tractors
- Full UK driving license
- Understanding of organic farming principles (biodynamic principles would be an advantage)
- Supportive of the guiding principles of SCA
- Ability to work outside in all weathers
- Be physically fit and have stamina for the demands of the job
- Experience of animal handling would be advantageous.
Please send a covering letter and copy of your CV to email@example.com. Deadline for application is 31st August, though early applications are encouraged. We will invite shortlisted applicants to come and join us for a trial day.