We are a Bristol born and bred social enterprise and Community Interest Company (07253111), founded by Steve Glover in April 2010. Beginning with a disused plot of land, little to no growing skills and a small pot of money (start up capital of just £2,500), the Severn Project is now a successful and thriving urban farm working to an innovative model. Now, we supply to around 120 partners in Bristol and we have established strong relationships with satellite growers as diverse as Leyhill Prison, Petals Plus and Luscious Leaves (both Bristol businesses). In 2014 we experimented in with producing cucumbers, coriander, parsley and thyme – some of which remain on our product list to date. Consistently we put the money we make back into the project, helping the organisation to grow and to help provide more opportunities to engage individuals from vulnerable groups. As our business grows, so does our impact. The Severn Project is developing a ‘food hub’ to enable individuals and organisations such as our satellite growers to help grow food, offer access to land and equipment, machinery and storage, market their products, provide a sales and distribution route to market, administrative, business support and collective buying power.
We left our Templemeads Site in 2015 and are now concentrating on one site in Whitchurch.
We started here! 2 acres of land, no electricity, one tap, no polytunnels, no experience, no shed, no tools! It was hard!!! We had to make tea by boiling a kettle on a fire, all our tools fitted in my car, everything was done by hand. Our first customer was The Canteen in Stokes Croft Bristol http://www.canteenbristol.co.uk/ – 6 years later we are still supplying them with top quality produce. The soil was exceptionally stony and as we removed the stone our pathways and roads grew higher while the beds became lower. Glassboat http://www.glassboat.co.uk/ helped us to raise money for a rotovator which was extremely useful. We built 5 polytunnels and a fairly ramshackle shed. Very stressful times were helped by Awards for All and our first loan from NatWest.
You don’t get more urban than a Temple Meads growing hub. Wedged between Bristol’s main train station and a recycling unit, farming in this environment threw up a number of challenges. The soil was badly contaminated so as a condition of the tenancy we had to bring our own - about 1000 tons of subsoil, which we got free of charge. Avon and Somerset Police helped by giving us compost they seized from illegal cannabis growing in Bristol. We added this to mushroom compost from Woodland Horticulture http://www.woodlandhp.co.uk/ along with sand, lime and rockdust – demonstrating that even with no soil if you are determined, you can do it. We left in summer 2015 after selling around 150 tons of produce and generating massive social outcomes related to education training and employment. We will always be very grateful the HCA https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/homes-and-communities-agency for giving us the opportunity to demonstrate authentic urban farming at scale.
We started growing in Whitchurch in summer 2015. Following a significant investment process we upscaled our production and now much of the real hard work is carried out using a bedformer and seed drill from Salmac http://www.salmacltd.co.uk/ . Our building houses an up to date packing system, a walk in fridge and an office. We produce, process and distribute from here - in the region of 750kgs per week. We grow in 1.5 acres of polytunnels which are designed to allow access to tractors bought from Haygrove Tunnels http://www.haygrove.com/. To give some idea of scale the surface area of the tunnels is 2.5 times bigger than the sails of the Cutty Sark. We harvest rainwater from the tunnels and have installed a tank which holds a million litres of water. We have a lease from Bristol City Council for which we are eternally grateful. Since arriving in Whitchurch we have distributed approximately 150 tons of produce and in Summer/Autumn 2016 employed 11 people – some of whom have significant barriers to the workplace.
So we finally managed to buy a site! 7.3 acres in Wiltshire with the help and support of Esmée Fairbairn http://esmeefairbairn.org.uk/ and Unltd https://unltd.org.uk/. This is also the subject of a crowd funding bid, details will be on this site soon. We have top quality soil here and expect to grow a range of seasonal produce throughout the year starting in March 2017. We had hoped to start in 2016 but unfortunately engaged an incompetent solicitor who delayed everything until the growing season was pretty much over. Lessons were learned!!