Local Food Economy

Cultivating community: Five Acre Farm

By Ramona Andrews

Five Acre Farm embodies a commitment to nurturing the land, feeding into the local economy and fostering communal connections – find out how you can get involved.

Jon Goodman, Head Grower at Five Acre Farm
Jon Goodman, Head Grower at Five Acre Farm

In the tranquil countryside next to Backwell, about seven miles southwest of Bristol and nestled amidst rolling greenery, lies Five Acre Farm. What began as the Tobacco Factory‘s acquisition of the land in 2018 has blossomed into a thriving hub of sustainable farming and, now, community engagement, under the stewardship of Jon Goodman, the Head Grower for the past two years. 

This May, the Avon Organic Group is hosting Jon for a talk about the intricacies of crop planning, succession sowing, and maximising yields within limited space. Bristol Good Food caught up with Jon to find out more about the work at Five Acre Farm and his plans for the Avon Organic Group talk on 23 May

Fridge in Five Acre Farm's flower barn

“I care about soil a lot,” Jon told Bristol Good Food. “My old boss used to say that the second most important thing we’re doing is growing food. The most important is keeping the soil in good heart, so that it can produce bountiful food for many generations to come. I couldn’t agree more.”

For Jon, nature-friendly farming means many things and his aim is to showcase how farming can coexist harmoniously with the natural world.

He explained how Five Acre Farm grows in a way that keeps mycelium networks intact, using ‘no-dig’ methods for some of the beds, and harnessing the fertility-building potential of green manures, for example under-sowing squash with white clover, and leaving this over winter to build in fertility. 

Jon’s emphasis on thoughtful planning, echoed in the yearly ritual of crafting a season’s blueprint during the winter underscores the importance of foresight: “we always tweak it, but having a plan and modifying it works better to have enough stuff rather than winging it or being one hundred percent adaptive or responsive.”

Salad modules at Five Acre Farm
Salad modules at Five Acre Farm

The Avon Organic Group event promises a glimpse into the inner workings of Five Acre Farm, where every decision is guided by a profound respect for the soil and a passion for sustainable living. From the buzzing orchard, where bees hives have been placed nearby fruit trees to pollinate them, to the fields soon-to-be teeming with a diverse array of crops in the new season, Jon’s talk will unveil the secrets behind the farm’s success.

Jon summed up his aims for the farm: “the future is the community focus, as well as actually producing a lot of food for the local communities – we’re really aspiring to bring these elements together.”

As Five Acre Farm transitions into a Community Interest Company (CIC), it underscores its commitment to fostering inclusive engagement. With initiatives like Volunteer Fridays and a newly established community garden, the farm invites individuals to immerse themselves in its vibrant ecosystem.

From the flower barn where you can pick-your-own flowers in the summer, to the newly established community garden, Five Acre Farm is working towards collective creativity and growth. Occupational therapists will be leading sessions for adults with support needs this summer, further enriching the farm’s tapestry of inclusivity.

Team from Shift Bristol at Five Acre Farm
Shift Bristol visiting the farm: Shift Bristol is a not-for-profit organisation providing training in practical sustainability and resilience

As well as the Tobacco Factory Market, the farm currently supplies Brockley Stores, Public Market in Easton, and the Mazi Project. Volunteers from Avon Gleaning Network have enjoyed the mutual benefits of clearing the beds and making use of the produce that is not marketable any more. 

Embrace the ethos of nurturing the land and fostering communal connections at Five Acre Farm and get involved with the farm’s regular Volunteer Fridays, which include a communal lunch at the end of the session. Contact events@fiveacre.farm to find out more.

Jon hosts the next Avon Organic Group talk on 23 May.

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