The idea for a local food initiative came out of a public meeting hosted by the New Economics Foundation in the town in February 2008. At the meeting, which was attended by more than 70 local residents, landowners, farmers and businesses, there was a strong consensus that Chagford – as an agricultural community – should act to shorten the distance between its producers and consumers.
As a result, a core group was established to find a suitable site and set-up a market-scale horticultural garden within easy reach of the town. As part of this process, we were also invited to apply to the Big Lottery Fund’s Local Food programme for a one-off grant to help get the project off the ground. Our initial application was successful and we received a conditional offer from the grant fund. We were also fortunate to receive a small grant from the Dartmoor Sustainable Development Fund to help with our start-up costs.
During the summer of 2009 we also found a commendable local landowner willing to rent us a field one mile from the town and Chagford Community Agriculture was born. During the autumn and winter of 2009 we busily prepared our new site for the challenge ahead by sowing a green-manure to build fertility in the soil, and laying a hedgerow to let more light onto the field.
In March 2010 we received full 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 for which we’d applied to the Local Food Programme. We then opened up the scheme to the community and asked for 20 initial members to come forward and commit to buy a share in the harvest for the first year of production.
There then followed a mad-March rush to get our vegetables propagated and into the ground as quickly as possible, while also putting up polytunnels, fencing and sheds, digging a well and planting an orchard. Luckily we have had an enormous amount of support from both members and friends who have volunteered their time, energy and enthusiasm to make the whole thing possible. This thank-you is for all of you.
Chinnie, Yssy & Ed