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BLFF grantee spotlight: Sims Hill Shared Harvest

Highlighting how this incredible community food projects funded by Bristol Local Food Fund provides a new model for food production — one built on inclusivity and shared access

This series of case studies seeks to highlight some of the amazing work being undertaken by the community food projects that have received BLFF funding, demonstrating the impact and importance of these grants.

Introducing Sims Hill Shared Harvest

Sims Hill Shared Harvest (SH) is a cooperative structured food growing project which aims to provide local, nutritious, sustainable and affordable food to the Bristol community. The project is run from their market garden in North Bristol and one other neighbouring site where they grow seasonal vegetables based on agro-ecological principles.

The project is run as a community-supported agriculture scheme (CSA), meaning that consumers (the members) have an active collaborative role in the running of the project. The members support the project by signing up for regular veg boxes, and in return they take part in decision-making, attend member meetings and are able to enjoy the use of the site. Through the veg box scheme SH feeds around 170 households across Bristol.

In addition to growing seasonal produce, SH targets key social and environmental issues such as access to land and social isolation. They aim to connect people to the spaces where their food is grown, offering access to land and the opportunity for people to spend time with their hands in the soil communing with nature. Through workdays and volunteer groups Sims Hill also seeks to bring people together in the community, hoping to target the social isolation that is so present in our society.

Furthermore, SH works to expand knowledge of sustainable food growing by running training programs for new entrants to farming. With the support of BLFF funding they are expanding the reach of these training opportunities and aim to address issues around food justice. 

How has the grant been spent? £3000 to fund connection and promote food justice

In the first round of grants from Bristol Local Food Fund, Sims Hill Shared Harvest received a grant of £3000. This funding was used to support the delivery of their project ‘Soil Connections’, which seeks to promote food justice.

Food justice means that all communities should be able to grow, sell and access affordable, locally grown and culturally appropriate food (Feeding Bristol, 2024). However, due to the colonial history of land ownership and land passing down through generations through inheritance, the majority of land is owned by a small number of wealthy (white) people (Sam Siva, 2020). This has led to Black People and People of Colour (BPOC) being widely under-represented in British agricultural sectors, with agriculture and horticulture being two of the least diverse sectors in Britain (Josina Calliste, 2021). Land access is not the only barrier BPOC people face within the agricultural system. Land in Our Name’s 2023 report ‘Jumping Fenceshighlights structural racialisation of BPOC within the food system, where they experience racism and prejudice, often stereotyped as less competent or willing to work the land. The report makes clear the absence of BPOC farmers from the UK’s consciousness with a story about a Black farmer being reported to the police on multiple occasions for harvesting his own crop.

The Soil Connections project seeks to disrupt some of the barriers to food justice that BPOC might face by offering opportunities to access land, training and creating pathways to paid employment within the agricultural sector. Their efforts are underpinned by an anti-racist approach, acknowledging the colonial history of land ownership and access in the UK and seeks to expand the British imagination around who farming is for.

Their approach also pays attention to migrant solidarity. With the current hostile political climate surrounding refugees and migrants, SH believes in an alternative system where human rights should be upheld, where everyone can find safety, solidarity and support within the UK. The Soil Connections project highlights the need to create welcoming and inclusive spaces. SH sees accessing land as a powerful way of reclaiming space and taking a stand against the hostile environment policy. The project showcases how land can be shared and encourages other agro-ecological organisations to do the same.

The project has a number of elements and supports around 23 individuals. One element of the project is to run horticultural sessions, which aim to provide a welcoming space for people to connect, learn, share skills and connect with community. These sessions are open to anyone affected by the asylum system. The SH growers support the participants to follow their needs and interests and find tasks which suit them. SH reported that all members had expressed feeling more connected to a support network in Bristol and improved wellbeing. One participant suggested that the project was ‘like a tonic, like an elixir’. SH highlighted that the project had helped participants create meaningful bonds and provided a space away from potentially unsuitable housing that people might be living in.

The BLFF funding also supported SH to offer a trainee plot to one individual. This plot had specifically been created by SH to increase land access for BPOC. The plot provided this participant with the space to grow vegetables intuitively, using his own knowledge and skills, whilst the SH growers assisted with ordering seeds, provided tools and suggested crop plans.

During the funding period SH supported ‘Rocket Man,’ a market garden set up in May 2022 on the SH site by an experienced grower from Syria, who had previously attended the horticultural sessions. SH growers collaborated with the charity Ashley Community & Housing, a Bristol-based refugee housing and integration organisation, who provided business advice, computer training and translation. The SH growers assisted him in planning the purchase of a polytunnel, finding a volunteer build manager and organising volunteer build days. The polytunnel will have a great impact on the business, as it will extend the growing season.

Furthermore, the impact of the Soil Connection project extends out into Bristol’s community, with the food grown from the farm starter projects being donated to food justice projects and food banks, helping to address food insecurity within the city.

How you can get involved

Sims Hill is doing amazing work to create an inclusive and welcoming space where all people can connect with a community and spend time communing with the natural world.

To get involved with Sims Hill Shared Harvest head over to their website to find information about volunteering or membership

Furthermore, if you would like to donate to BLFF so we can continue to fund projects like Sims Hill you can click here to donate.

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