Everybody likes to have fresh food, ideally produced locally in a healthy and sustainable way. However, the price of organic produce can put it out of reach. Highbridge Farm deals with this by providing an opportunity for community members to buy food, grown locally, using organic principles wherever possible, at around a third of retail prices.

The difference? They do the work themselves, as a co-operative. The project was established in February 2010 as a ‘not for profit’ group working to grow food in teams. Currently, there are 180 Stakeholders from all districts of Eastleigh and its surrounding areas comprising of individuals, families, young, retired, fit and disabled. 70% of stakeholders join with little or no growing experience.

The land is a 1.7-acre field, offered by Henry Russell and is located just north of Eastleigh, near the river Itchen. There are many types of wildlife and often a spectacle of swans flying over low as they approach the river.

There is no mains water on site, rainwater is harvested and stored and if the growing areas require additional water, it is drawn from an adjacent pond.

In 2010 the Woodland Trust gave the project several hundred hedgerow trees and shrubs, such as blackthorn (sloe), elder (elder flower and berry), crab apple, apple, hazel (nuts) and rosa rugosa (rosehips).

In 2011 they were gifted with 200 apple trees from a local grower and their ‘bring your own apples for juicing’ has proven very successful. Other fruit bushes and trees are greengages, raspberries, plums, gooseberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants.

They use organic practices to grow their crops in a low carbon consumption way, with minimal fossil fuel input, environmental consideration and sensitivity in a sustainable manner. They care for the land and respect its needs.

All they ask from their stakeholders is a nominal contribution to costs, currently £10 per annum, a commitment of, as a minimum, 10 hours per month, every month, supporting cultivation and crop production and a willingness to be part of the community and work within a team and toward their aims.

The benefits are sharing effort, experience and time producing wonderful food for each other, constructive physical activity and participation within a friendly and supportive community.

It’s all about community at Highbridge Farm.

For more information, go to: highbridgefarmcommunity.co.uk

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