Bristol is jam-packed with inspiring initiatives and businesses working to fix the food chain and address a variety of challenging social and environmental issues. Steph Wetherell gives us the lowdown on some of the amazing organisations working to make Bristol a better place.
1. Fighting food waste
When it comes to fresh fruit and veg, it’s a race against time to redistribute gluts of waste produce before it goes off. Enter Bristol Jam Plan, an innovative project that aims to process rescued, donated and surplus fruit and veg into jams, chutneys and more. Founder and chief-preserver, Danielle Coombs, explains that her grandmother used to do something very similar; “I guess this has always been with me, a part of my culture growing up!”. The Jam Plan products are either donated back to projects in need, or sold and the proceeds passed to shelters and community projects.
“We’re creating value out of an available resource, and using it to help initiatives that need support due to lack of funding!” Danielle points out.
Fancy lending a hand? They are always looking for volunteers to help at the weekly preserving sessions, and keep an eye out for their products at cafés and markets around the city.
2. Teaching kids about food
The Growing Up Project is a farm with a difference. The farm’s helpers are a little younger than you might expect. Kids from local nurseries and schools visit the farm to help farmer Tom Baxter grow produce in a series of polytunnels and an orchard. There, they learn about where their food comes from, and the importance of biodiversity and insect life to our food system. Tom was inspired to get kids onto the farm after his daughter went on a school trip to a local supermarket to learn about food.
“I wanted to offer an alternative. It’s important for kids to learn about the cycle of nature, from seed to harvest, and how things like the weather affect crops. Although it’s about food, it becomes about nature, and the nature of nature!” – Tom Baxter, Growing Up Project
3. Urban food growing
Across Bristol, edible food gardens are popping up in the most unexpected locations, spearheaded by the green fingered folk at Incredible Edible Bristol. Aiming to make Bristol the first Edible City in the UK, they’ve created more than 40 edible gardens in the last 4 years, including their Urban Food Trail. “It’s made food growing visible in surprising places, whether that’s a container on a train station platform or a new edible garden in a sunken roundabout,” founder Sara Venn explains. “And it shows people that growing food is exciting and an option for them, whatever their circumstances.”
4. Championing organic practices
Luke Hasell, founder of The Story, started farming on his family farm in 2003. “I changed the farming practices to organic production because I believe that way of farming really does affect the quality of the food we eat,” he explains. “I wanted to produce food that I would eat, knowing that the farming I was doing was in turn having a conversation with nature.” The Story’s 100% Pasture-Fed cows and sheep live on rich pasture, and the farm teems with biodiversity and wildlife.
“Farming to organic standards and beyond is the future. It’s important to me and I believe it will become more important for the rest of the population in years to come.”
Luke also rents a piece of land to The Community Farm, a community-owned social enterprise that grows organic vegetables and offers educational and therapeutic growing opportunities, reconnecting people with where their food comes from. Find The Story’s pasture-fed, dry-aged beef on farmdrop.
5. Bringing communities together through food
Inspired by the diversity of cultures and communities living in Bristol, 91 Ways was established to use the uniting power of food to bring people from across the city together. Named after the 91 different languages spoken in Bristol, it has so far brought together more than 7,000 people from 51 language communities at more than 100 events across the city.
“Sharing food is like sharing a friendship – when you share food, you share your culture, your heritage and your heart,” founder Kalpna Woolf explains. “This simple act can help to break down barriers between people, bringing greater understanding and fostering the common ground between communities.”
6. Giving disadvantaged teens a route to work
The inspiring Step and Stone bakery was started by two women who are both mothers of children with Down Syndrome. “Educational opportunities for disabled young people have come on in leaps and bounds in recent years, but finding and sustaining paid employment is still really difficult,” co-founder Jane Chong explains. They set up a bakery to work with young people with learning disabilities, giving them the confidence and skills to be able to find employment in the catering industry.
“It’s also really important to us to challenge perceptions and to show that people with learning disabilities can produce a really first rate product, so we use top quality ingredients, like organic untreated Shipton Mill flour to make our delicious lavosh.” – Jane Chong
The proof is in the eating. Their Rosemary and Sea Salt flavour were recently awarded a Gold Taste of the West award.
7. Raising goats on a community farm
Up on the Troopers Hill allotment, between beds of runner beans and strawberry patches, a small community of Bristolians are keeping goats. Street Goat started two years ago after a crowdfunding campaign helped them raise the start-up costs – now around 15 people help with the weekly chores of milking, feeding, mucking out and site maintenance. “I always wanted to keep goats,” Carol Laslett, one of the group of goat-tenders explains. “Doing it cooperatively means you share the responsibilities,” she continues, explaining how they rotate the goats between different fenced areas, as well as collecting allotment waste and branches to supplement their diet. They also take male kids from the dairy industry (similar to Just Kidding) and used them for conservation grazing and clearing overgrown land before butchering them for meat.
If you’ve always fancied yourself as a goat farmer, why not drop them an email to see if they need any help.