Urban Growing

Living the good life at Bedminster Down Community Farm

By Hannah Shepherd

Volunteer Hannah Shepherd (pictured left) spoke to Lizzie Stephens (pictured above), the managing director and founder of Bedminster Down Community Farm (BDCF) about becoming a community interest company, her ‘Good Life’ approach to growing food and their grand plans for 2024. Find out how you can get involved.

Melons growing in the polytunnel – tended to by Joanna the polytunnel queen

Tucked amongst trees, fields and Bedminster Down allotments, lies the small oasis of south Bristol’s recently registered community interest company (CIC), Bedminster Down Community Farm. Lizzie, the founder of BDCF, took over the smallholding around five years ago having been captivated by the BBC’s ‘Good Life’ sitcom as a child. “I was so obsessed that my mum got me a veg patch, then we got an allotment, and now we have a farm.” At the end of 2023, Lizzie, her husband Barrie and the team decided to make the farm a CIC. “I just thought we need to widen this out to the community… It’s always been a hobby but I can’t keep it as ‘just a hobby’ because it’s a great space… It’s beautiful down here.”

Rescue ducks in their quirky make-shift ponds

Take one glance at the BDCF Facebook page and you get a sense of the playful and caring approach the team takes to keeping animals and growing food. Amongst the animals roaming the grounds are pet pig Reggie, the “lawn mowing” sheep, turkeys, meat pigs and the many rescue animals including ducks, guinea pigs and rabbits. There are over 100 chickens and cockerels either laying eggs or simply living out their retirement on the farm. “I love my girls, they follow me everywhere… I’ve even done CPR on a chicken!” Lizzie chuckles.

Volunteer team apple picking, scratting and making cider last September.

Elsewhere on the farm, there is half an acre of outdoor growing space for root vegetables, beehives and three polytunnels. In the polytunnels, you can find everything from lettuce and strawberries to tomatillos and loofahs. “Last year we grew 18 varieties of tomatoes and it was such fun.” Surplus is then distributed amongst volunteers, within the community, or with curious onlookers from the allotments who have heard about the adventurous varieties. For Lizzie, the process of growing food is as satisfying as sharing it. “Even if I get the gnarliest, ugliest carrot I’m eating it because I grew it. It’s such a nice feeling of achievement.”

BCDF are eager to welcome volunteers who can help with developing the infrastructure (like this polytunnel)

The farm is off-grid so its facilities are currently limited but BDCF has big plans for the upcoming year. As well as applying for funding for solar power and compost toilets, BDCF has already secured the funds for a new polytunnel. Lizzie is excited about how the improvements will enable them to support even more local people who cannot afford to eat. “Our number one goal is to feed more of the community and share the space… It’s the whole point of us doing it.”

When people start volunteering they generally stay, which is a testament to Lizzie’s hospitality and the welcoming, family atmosphere at BDCF. Volunteers Reuben, Edie, Tracey, Paul, Jane, Graham, Melanie and Joanne (“the polytunnel queen”) – to name but a few – have been at BDCF for years. “At the end of the day, [the farm] belongs to them as well”.

If you are interested in finding out more about volunteering at BDCF, go to CanDo Bristol or visit the Facebook page. BDCF will also be participating in the Get Growing Trail for the first time this year. The Trail runs over the weekend of 15-16 June and BDCF will be open Saturday 15 June, 12–4pm.

Join the conversation

So, what change do you want to see happen that will transform food in Bristol by 2030? Do you already have an idea for how Bristol can make this happen? Join the conversation now.

* Required field

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Our Sponsors