News Bridging the Gap

New affordable agroecological veg pilot launches in Newtownards

A new project on a local Newtownards farm is launching this month to make organically produced vegetables available to local families. The Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) pilot in Newtownards aims to make healthy, planet-friendly food accessible and affordable for everyone. 

Thomas Ferguson P5 West Winds Primary School beside the school organic vegetable beds on the Ben Vista Farm CSA. Credit: Barry Ferguson

Thomas Ferguson P5 West Winds Primary School beside the school organic vegetable beds on the Ben Vista Farm CSA. Credit: Barry Ferguson

Food that is good for both health and the planet often comes at a higher cost than less healthy and/or planet-friendly alternatives. Bridging the Gap is a UK wide initiative established to test ways in which we can make climate and nature friendly food accessible to everyone. Ben Vista Farm in Newtownards has teamed up with Bridging the Gap to trial a new way of producing food organically with and for the local community through the CSA.   

From this month, people in Newtownards will be able to become members of a weekly “VegBox" scheme. As members they will receive a share of the farm’s produce based on what is ready for harvest that week. People experiencing low incomes will be offered a 50% discount on the standard price of the box to ensure that everyone is able to access healthy and sustainable food at a price that fits their budget.

Barry Ferguson, whose family have farmed in the same place since the 1880s is leading the pilot CSA initiative supported by Bridging the Gap. Barry said:

“Part of the vision for our small family farm is to get back towards what the job of farms was a couple of generations ago, i.e. producing and supplying fresh food directly to our local community. The Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) approach which we have adopted on one field on the farm isn’t about making profits and developing big business, but more about producing food at a tiny scale and without agrochemicals with and for our local community.”  

Through the pilot, Ben Vista Farm will be able to supply up to 30 families with a weekly selection from the forty varieties of veg they have planted. The pilot will run from 19th July until Christmas 2024. 

Barry said:

“From talking to people in and around Newtownards there is a clear demand for fresh, organically grown, seasonal vegetables, but often the organic produce is hard to find (or is just not available), costs significantly more than conventionally grown veg and isn’t always the freshest having come from Spain, the Netherlands and even further afield.”  

CSAs are a way of reconnecting the community with farms and for them to get involved in producing their food. Local people who join the CSA make a commitment to be involved for the season, in return the growing team commit to work on producing their food, and every week they get a share of that week’s harvest. Bridging the Gap is providing a subsidy of 50% from the going rate for weekly veg boxes to make the boxes available to everybody no matter their income level. 

Hannah Gibbs, Manager of the Bridging the Gap Project said:

“Sustain is proud to support our partners, including Ben Vista CSA and West Winds Primary School, in developing this innovative scheme. It aligns with our mission to put good food at the heart of strong, healthy, resilient communities. The CSA approach is an opportunity for the people of Newtownards to connect with food grown locally and we are delighted that Bridging the Gap can help to make climate-friendly food options more accessible and affordable for everybody.”

The results of this trial will provide evidence for Bridging the Gap to call for the government to introduce longer term policies to enable people on low incomes to access climate and nature friendly food.

For more information on Bridging the Gap visit our website.

Published Wednesday 3 July 2024

Bridging the Gap: Bridging the Gap to climate and nature friendly food for all.

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