Chagfood is a community supported market garden supplying fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetable shares to households in Chagford and surrounding villages in Devon.
Founders Ed Hamer and Annkatrin Hendry, were originally inspired by a community meeting held in the town (hosted by the New Economics Foundation) in February 2009, and decided to try and bring vegetable growing back into the area. They began talking to local land owners, looking for land, applying for funding and brought in Chinnie Kingsbury as a grower.
Their aim was to establish a community supported agriculture (CSA) veg box scheme to supply ecologically produced, seasonal and affordable vegetables to local people, combined with providing local farmers with a living wage and promoting traditional farming skills.
The land and production
Chagfood rents six acres of land, 650 feet above sea level on two small plots a mile from Chagford. They have a three year rolling farm business tenancy (FBT) and farm grow 50 varieties of seasonal vegetables and has recently planted 20 apple trees and 50 plus fruit trees. The farm employs entirely organic methods and inputs; however, they are not certified as ‘organic’ as they feel that the CSA model enables their members to trust the farm with maintaining organic standards.
Chagfood uses horse-power – Samson and Billberry, two five year old Cob horses as part of their ethos to promote sustainable farming and a renaissance of traditional skills. Samson and Billberry are used for primary cultivation with disc harrows and spring-tine cultivators, as well as tillage using an inter-row straddle cultivator. Ed says “On land of less than five acres, the cost in time of working with horses is far outweighed by the combined costs of fuel, inputs, depreciation, soil compaction and pollution associated with using a lightweight tractor. Horse power also benefits soil health, plant health and minimises their ecological footprint.”
Chagfood is a large-membership Community Interest Company, limited by guarantee.
All day to day decisions are made by the growing team. During the week that they hold their annual general meeting (AGM), all boxes have to be picked up from the farm which encourages members to attend the AGM. At the AGM they present reports on the growing, membership and finance and ask members to vote on the box price and the growers’ wages.
Chagfood provides members with a full box for 28 weeks between July and January. From February to June members receive one or two seasonal items weekly. They have a ‘hungry-gap’ where they cannot harvest in March and April.
As of April 2014 Chagfood supplies fruit and vegetables to 80 households. They do drop offs in five local communities which tend to be at members’ houses.
Membership costs £500 a year for a small share or £660 for a large share. Members are encouraged to pay up front for the year, but also have the option of a monthly standing order. They only supply produce grown on their farm, therefore the members carry the risk and support the farm through lean times, whilst benefitting during a bumper yields. Members are invited every Thursday throughout the growing season to assist with growing tasks and harvesting and are kept up to date with a weekly email newsletter.
Chagfood signed up 25 members at the start who also helped to write letters of support for the scheme and the planning permission for polytunnels needed to get started. They received planning permission from Dartmoor National Park Authority for three polytunnels and two sheds on the site, making the scheme eligible for the full £38,600 grant supplied by the Big Lottery Fund’s Local Food programme.
A subsequent application for £9,200 to Dartmoor National Park’s Sustainable Development Fund was also successful. This grant money was used to subsidise the first two years of the scheme. However, since April 2012, members’ subscriptions have fully covered the running costs and the wages of two part-time growers.
In the short term Chagfood aims to perfect their growing systems, crops maintenance and husbandry to produce the highest quality crops possible on our two growing sites.
Longer term they aim to increase membership to 100 shares at which point the two growers can be paid a “living wage”. At the moment they continue to subsidise the scheme through unpaid hours. They would also like to introduce small-scale cereals into the rotation along with the potential to take on an additional five acres of land over the next three years.
If you want to sign up with Chagfood please contact them direct via their contact details below:
Contact: Ed Hamer
T: 07858 381539