Young farmers hope ecological farm will ‘reconnect people back to the land’

The Middle Ground Growers
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Four young farmers have spent their life savings on 16 acres of land to build an eco-farm that could feed more than 400 families.

“A really beautiful, meaningful livelihood”

Middle Ground Growers have already spent £210,000 to purchase grassland in Bath but need to raise a further £95,000 to complete their farm. Co-founder Hamish Evans said the group hopes the campaign will inspire a cultural change in farming and the UK’s relationship with food. The 23-year-old told the PA news agency:

It’s a really beautiful, meaningful livelihood that stemmed from a kind of ecological grief

Our farm is about connecting people back to the land, as part of the local food movement.

It is about creating different cultural norms through different eating habits and a lifestyle that minimises the impact on the environment.

Young farmer Hamish Evans washes some carrots
Co-founder Hamish Evans said the group hopes the campaign will inspire a cultural change in farming and the UK’s relationship with food (Middle Ground Growers/PA)

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Middle Ground Growers is made up of Evans; Xavier Hamon, 35; Olivia Rhodes, 31; and Sammy Elmore, 28, and a host of volunteers. Money raised through their fundraiser will go towards helping the group complete their 16-acre site at Weston Spring Farm. Donors are also offered the chance to name an orchard tree for an environmentally conscious gift this Christmas.

So far, more than half of the funds have already been raised and Evans said the support has been “overwhelming”. He said:

I think people can get behind it because our farm will provide local, healthy, affordable food that is grown in a way that does not destroy things.

There is usually some resistance to major changes like this but we have not had any backlash.

Middle Ground Growers group shot standing in a field
Money raised through their fundraiser will go towards helping the group complete their 16-acre site at Weston Spring Farm (Middle Ground Growers/PA)

The funds raised will cover the costs of tools and equipment to build a five acre, no-dig, market garden and a solar barn equipped with a 12 kilowatt solar panel system. It will also go towards restoring ponds and wetlands.

A regenerative ecological farm uses special farming and grazing practices to help restore degraded soil diversity and rebuild the natural area. The farm will produce a range of seasonal fruit and vegetables, including acres of apple, pear, damson, and greengage trees, and there are plans for a nuttery to grow walnuts and hazelnuts.

Middle Ground Growers currently sell seasonal veg boxes from their two-acre plot in Bathampton for 70 families every week. However, they hope their new farm will enable them to expand this to more than 400 homes around Somerset.

The contents of each box changes according to what vegetables are in season and includes fresh eggs produced by the farm’s 48 free-range hens. The chickens, which the team refer to as their “co-stewards of the land”, benefit the farm’s ecosystem by keeping the grass down and adding manure to the composting system.

Hamish Evans teaching trainees
Hamish Evans (left) runs education sessions on ecological farming (Middle Ground Growers/PA)

Complex

Evans admitted that changes to food production are a “complex issue”, particularly around affordability for lower income households. He added there needs to be more education about the importance of food being grown locally but “shaming people for their diets” is not the way forward.

The farm runs educational programmes and workshops to try to combat this by teaching people about seasonal food production and ecological farming. He said:

People shouldn’t be blamed or made to feel bad because that won’t make anyone change. The education has got to be inclusive, so we can learn together and inspire change rather than forcing it through guilt or fear.

People need to know about the realities of the situation and how crazy our global food system is. There are solutions, we just need to get cracking with them.

To find out more about the project, visit their crowdfunder here.

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