Sims Hill Shared Harvest

14th August, 2013

Contributor: Bristol

Membership owned Community Supported Agriculture initiative with sliding scale costs and volunteering opportunities



Sims Hill Shared Harvest is a grass roots initiative set up by inspired individuals who wanted to grow local food in an environmentally friendly, self financing way to the benefit of local communities who could better connect with their food supply. Costs are minimised by offering different types of membership allowing for volunteering time to contribute towards the cost of vegetables.

This is Bristol’s first community owned and run ‘Community Supported Agriculture’ project.

The annual membership fees pay for professional growers to manage the land. Sims Hill also offers opportunities for education, work and recreation, supports people who are socially or economically marginalised, and builds community by creating a relationship between food and its production.

The project has been successful despite substantial challenges experienced from the outset. Originally Sims Hill was to be sited next to Avon Wildlife’s ‘Feed Bristol’ project. This would have provided a range of shared resources and benefits. However ‘Feed Bristol experienced long delays in securing funding and unforeseen circumstances led to relocation on the other side of the motorway to Sims Hill. The relocation eventually turned out to be of great benefit to Feed Bristol providing better quality land where a former market garden had thrived in the past, with existing commercial greenhouses and good accessibility, but meant Sims Hill were left to press ahead alone and without the advantages of shared resources . A drought in the first year prior to the installation of a water supply followed by an exceptionally wet year meant the project was stretched to the limit and at serious risk.

When ‘Feed Bristol’ were finally installed in their current location, Sims Hill was then able to make full use of the massive commercial greenhouse and both could enjoy full collaboration. This summer Sims Hill, with volunteer help installed their own polytunnel creating substantially much more secure conditions against recent extremes in weather.

Sims Hill demonstrate what is possible when determined inspired people collaborate and are supported by the local municipality, in this instance Bristol City Council who provided the land at modest cost and stepped in to lend money for water supply following the near disastrous drought.

Are there other examples of urban Community Supported Agriculture projects in Partner cities and what if any interventions were needed from local administrations to help these start up or continue when faced with extreme challenges.