The organisers and volunteers at Sutton Community Farm, off Woodmansterne Lane in Wallington, have given themselves six weeks to raise £50,000 to secure the enterprise’s longer term future.
Their crowdfunder opened last week, offering rewards to contributors ranging from engaging workshops and fun experiences on the farm, to VegBoxes, food items and hand-made prints.
Using seven acres of smallholding land located between the Dobies garden centre and Oaks Park, the farm produced 22 tonnes of food in 2020-2021, when demand for their delivered veg boxes soared during the covid pandemic.
The farmers delivered nearly 30,000 veg boxes that year, made up of around 40 different kinds of fruit and veg grown organically on the farm, helping to cut locals’ carbon footprint by reducing the distance the food is transported, from field to plate. And also ensuring that the produce is fresher than much of what can be found on supermarket shelves.
But that covid boom didn’t last, and the farm’s turnover from trading dropped from £702,000 in 2020-2021 to £560,000 in 2021-2022, according to their most recent set of accounts. The farm attributes this directly to the ending of covid lockdown regulations.
As a consequence, the farm made a loss of £30,000 for that trading year compared to a profit of £85,000 in 2020-2021. Meanwhile, their overheads increaded by £55,000,
“Approximately half of this increase was offset by additional grant income received to support employment of trainee members of staff,” the accounts say.
And more recently, the farm’s been hit by the cost of living crisis, with a further drop in orders, while their costs have soared.
The community farmers say of their crowdfunder, “This is a people-powered solution to the current economic crisis: a successful crowdfunder will secure the future of London’s only community-owned fruit and veg farm!”
Most of the farm’s food is sold via their online shop and delivered to homes throughout south London and Surrey.
“Working with nature is key to the farm’s core principles: building healthy soils, creating habitats for wildlife, and never using chemicals to grow food,” the farmers say.
“The farm also supports the livelihoods of many other organic farmers through trade, a model that builds a better and more resilient food system.”
More than 70 volunteers each week get involved in all farm activities. The farm also provides volunteering opportunities for those with learning disabilities.
“Aspiring food growers and farmers can access vital training opportunities in a community setting,” they say.
“Partnerships with local food banks and charities provide a vital source of fresh food to those most in need.”
One of the volunteers, Gay McDonagh, said: “Volunteering at the farm keeps me in a great mental state, being outside in all weather, and being with a great variety of people of many ages. It also keeps me in touch with my source of food and helps me to contribute to a fantastic sustainable food project which is playing a positive role in the climate crisis.”
And the farm managers say: “Times are tough. But well-produced, locally-grown fresh food that is good for people and planet should not fall victim to the current economic crisis.
“At the start of the pandemic, the supply chains of the big supermarkets failed, and the demand for local and alternative food businesses soared. Once again, we’ve recently seen empty shelves for fresh food and further projected supermarket shortages that have exposed the vulnerability of the UK’s food system.
“Sutton Community Farm is working towards building a better, more resilient food system. This means paying a fair price for good food by directly supporting nature-friendly farmers.
“Crowdfunding £50,000 will provide financial security until 2024, allowing time to rebuild the farm’s customer base and seek grant funding.”
- Visit the farm’s crowdfunder page for more information on the varied rewards on offer and to make a donation to help save Sutton Community Farm
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Best of luck to the Community Farm!
Gay McDonagh will be speaking tonight on ITV London News at 6pm.