What a season!

We continued into Winter building the tunnel. We built the door frames, we hung the ventilation netting, we covered it with plastic and got it drum tight. This is achieved by dropping the mid rail by 7cm on each side, and George achieved this in his usual style. By hitting it really hard with a hammer!


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Trimming off the excess plastic after skinning the tunnel.

We also laid the foundations and built the shed. Pretty hard to make the shed look inspiring, but it was a really important job to get ticked off before Winter.

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Then we planted the 15kg of organic garlic, which is the final job of the season, and we always do garlic as there is alot of leeway as to when you can get it down. As long as it’s in before Xmas, then we have still had good yields. The image on the left shows George using a flame weeder to burn the holes into the ground fabric, and the one on the right is 15kg laid down.


Then just in time for Xmas we had some great news, that we have been awarded £10k grant to deliver our community growing sessions. This covers volunteer travel, lunch, tools and waterproof clothing. If you are interested in getting involved in 2019, please drop us a line on contact [at] reddylane.com

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The tunnel

1It feels a long time after the crowdfund, but we have finally begun construction on our 100 foot polytunnel.

Polyunnels on this scale are really expensive, and it costs the same again to have it constructed for you. So, after a lot of ummming and aaahhhing we decided to use all the crowdfund money for the raw materials, and construct it ourselves. This meant we got a larger polytunnel and a very daunting task for October. It has been keeping us all very busy, and we’ve definately had some tension in the group, but it does look rather wonderful already. We have learnt alot!2

It is quite a task to construct, and there are many stages. One of the first tasks is taking delivery of it all, and trying to work out what it all is. It seemed so much timber and packets of ironmongery.

Then you need to very accurately measure it out, and dig 32 holes for the 16 hoops. The base plates then sit inside this, and are anchored on to tubes, and then backfilled. Measuring and levelling them took forever. Personally I nearly cried this day….

But then you can really quickly construct the hoops and something rather wonderful begins to take shape.

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Bureaucratic wins

We have been told by the planners we can build Reddy Lane Market Garden to the specifications that we want to, and we have had our organic licenses issued by the Soil Association.

Planning permission
Reddy Lane Market Garden has finally been granted full approval to build its  27.43 x 5.49m (90x 18 feet) polytunnel, and storage shed with packing area. It took alot of phone calls, a meeting, then complicated to-scale maps and done at home technical drawings. Oh, and a £90 fee! But we were finally told we could proceed without needing full planning permission, which felt like a major step forward, so now we can finally begin to build the site.

We were only allowed to proceed because the field we are in is many hectares, and therefore the landlowners have permitted development rights to farm their land. The landowners also kindly submitted the application in their names. There is no way we would have been granted permission on the original site that fell through in Strines, as the landowners only owned 8 acres, and that is not enough land. Dealing with some of the staff at the planning office was frustrating, and highlighted how far there is to go before we can even contemplate good availability for locally produced pesticide free food. The entire planning system for farm “development” would need to be re-hauled. Also, it would help if they could envisage that women under 40 years old might be capable of running farms.

Compost loo
The easiest building task to begin with was the compost loo, which we think is pretty important to ensure volunteers can feel comfortable helping out. It is being put together by building a frame and attaching fence panels to it. The floor is paving slabs and the ceiling is corrugated plastic. We are hoping this will come together at two fifths of the cost of buying one as a bundle, which can be eye-wateringly expensive for what is a small garden shed with a box and a loo seat in.

Organic license
Reddy Lane Market Garden is already part of a much larger organically certified farm called Abbey Leys Farm. It has already been through it’s three year conversion period, so the license for our market garden just had to transfer to our name, but this included a three hour inspection on crop rotation, organic seeds and inputs, and  fertility building. We will be audited another 2x in the first year to make sure we are compliant. We wrote a short why buy organic page here.

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Rabbit fencing

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Lindsay using the ‘monkey’ to whack in some of the posts.

We began one of the more physical tasks for the new market garden this week. Starting at 6am, we put 60 posts in for the new fence. This is 4 very large ones for the corners, and an extra one where the gate will be. 8 of the next size down, which will provide the tension points for the wiring. And then 48 smaller ones which will stop the netting falling over. There is an endemic rabbit problem at the site, so we are taking precautions.

Next week we are putting 128m of wire netting up, and we are trying a new method of putting it up. We are folding it down into an L-shape at the bottom, so the rabbits stand on it, and try to dig through the wire. This is our attempt to avoid having to dig it into the ground using a mini- digger. Highly experienced grower Iain Tolhurst from Tolhurst Organics advised us to try this way, so we will see if it works….

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George takes 5 minutes as a neighbour and his tractor bucket helps us out for some of the posts.

 

 

We have started the set up

It’s taken a while since the crowdfund, but we finally began work on the site set up this week. We laid a few hundred metres of heavy black plastics, which will act as weed suppressants, and kill off the perennial weeds. There is an endemic Couch grass problem in the site that we want to deal with this year, by having the couch trying to grow during Summer, and being unable to, this will weaken it enough to kill it.

george complressedWe normally see House martins flying around in the sky, but they were very interested in the plastic. They were flying over it very close in larger numbers than usual, because they thought it was a body of water. There is plenty more plastic to lay next week, so it’s a good job George is having fun.

We have sent our application for the organic license to be transferred into our names, and are waiting for them to invoice us. It is good to find that the Soil Association have been forced to lower their fees for new entrants on small sites in line with the rest of Europe. It is still almost £500 though for one year. Everything will start with the certification process and audit once we pay them. Actually going through an audit process annually, keeping records and being inspected makes us different from community gardens and growers.

We are sowing courgettes, beans, kale and herbs to sell at Levenshulme Market now. As well as selling Charlotte from Glebelands lovely transplants too.

We complied with GDIP, and promptly lost over half our mailing list, made up of people who probably very much did want to keep up to date with us, but didn’t see that the email needed a response. If that applies to you, or you’d like to join the mailing list, please send us an email.

We are talking to the landowners about the planning application about the large polytunnel next week. And we have begun to get quotes and think about the rabbit fence. More on this in coming weeks….

We have signed our contract

contract cropWe signed our contract with Tim and Janet from Abbey Leys organic farm last Tuesday, which felt very exciting. So, I have been moving forward with the next stages of the site build and the associated admin.

I began the slow process of adding the Treasurer of our steering group to the bank account. It is a milestone on the road to transitioning from a private company into the type of social enterprise that wants to use their profits and assets for the public good.

We have been continuing to improve the house, so that shedwe can be more professional with the market stall (and hopefully more profitable with it). We built a large shed and have fitted it with two large commercial fridges.

I am putting it out there that we are looking for people who are interested in volunteering at the new site to fill out a survey. The link is here or people can have a chat to us at Levenshulme Market on Saturdays or email us. Having lots of surveys filled in will show their is lots of interest in what we are doing, and help us receive the grant to cover volunteer travel expenses, lunches and equipment including waterproof coats and wellies.

We have begun to put together a greenhouse in the garden, so that we can propagate plants for sale at the market as these have been very popular. And I have began to liaise with the planning department about our plans for the site, including the large polytunnel. And I have the forms from the Soil Association to transfer the organic license for this land to Reddy Lane. More on all of this as it unfolds….

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Charlotte from Glebelands is currently propagating our plants to sell. Being as good a plant raiser as her will be some challenge.

Defra consultations

LWA-Policy-Phase-3_PRINT-01-216x300It’s an exciting and challenging time for farming at the moment, with Brexit shaking up what was previously unshakable. Large landowners have for many years been collecting huge subsidies simply for owning land, rather than actively farming, but Brexit is changing this. Our reliance on imports, 30% of our food is imported, is looking shaky. And the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) produced a report called ‘Health and Harmony: the future for food, farming and the environment in a Green Brexit’ in February. Then it went around the country consulting with farmers and food producers round the country and invited them to submit their comments online. I went to one of the consultation events organised by Friends of the Earth on 16th April in Manchester.

I went to the Environmental Management Systems discussion in the morning, and tried to make the case for schemes which would include small growers in a way that is accessible for them. I learnt in the discussion that these DEFRA schemes are incredibly complex, and haven’t been taken up well due to the application process. Using an approach used by grant bodies was suggested, in which the amount of information required is relative to the amount of funding actually being offered. The organic system of accreditation and auditing was discussed as already existing to show good practice in managing land and producing food.

In the afternoon I went to Farming Resillience & Profitability, and this was a more challenging discussion due to some of the people sat at the table. Most farming is unprofitable, and supported by subsidies, so it was difficult for the men at the table to accept I was on the cusp of profitablity on half an acre of organic land. I tried to make the case about more support for new entrants into farming, and the need for ‘starter unit’ of a couple of acre farms to be available for people like me to get into farming. This wasn’t contested, but it just isn’t available, and I know how hard (almost impossible) I found it to find half an acre to rent at a reasonable price. Accessibility to land is for new entrants to get into farming is essential if the UK is to have a farming future.

A good report with the issues at hand is ‘Making Food Sovereignty a Reality- Recommendations for Post-Brexit Agricultural Policy‘ by the Landworkers Alliance.

Supporters page

Thank you all 231 people who supported our crowdfund, we were absolutely thrilled with the result. Lots of people pledged anonymously, but some of our non anonymous lovely supporters are:

Jane Lawson

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At the start of the crowdfund, I felt like I was stepping off a cliff into the abyss. I had absolutely no idea whether people would get behind us. 

Val Rawlinson
Caroline Downey
Katerina Pavlakis
Organic North Wholesalers
Sophie Hargreaves
Esther Morrison
Blaine Emmett
Nic Williams
Sarah Spanton
Bella Probyn
Paul Bower

37% there_crop
A fantastic start that really set us up for the campaign.

Owen Adams
Vanessa Hall
Lucy Dosser
Rob Fox-Bentley
Christopher Atkinson
Abby Rose
Rebecca Warren
Carol Perry
Monica Bolton
Duncan Scurfield
Vlad Schuler
Ursula Harries
Catherine Bruce
Rosie Grant
Catherine Makin
Christine Felton
Ruth Lomax
Sam Allen
Maggie
Lewis Coyne

50% there_crop
At the halfway mark after one week it begins to dawn on me that we might actually hit the target.

Lisa Swinn
Anne Strachan
Abigail Pound
Jane Leicester
Sarah Leech
Emma Patch
Matilda Johnson
Emma Rose
Janice Burns
Angela Carberry
Jane Collyer
Carla McCarthy
Biguana
Hazel Burke
Caleb Gordon
Martin Gittins
Graham Haughton
Nick Purcell
Rebecca Rose
David Ewing
Neal

60% there_crop
I started to sleep better at this point, as it dawned on me we were going to make the target.

Dee Sheehan
Cormac Lawler
Elizabeth Harding & Stuart Fear
Richard Hand
Sarah Hughes
David Govier
Amir Rowaichi
Orla Pavement
Nickala Torkington
Michelle Jackson
Tomas Remiarz
Jacquie Gray
Katie Emily
Karen Charters
Sarah Elderkin
Janet Bezzant
Emma Greenhalgh
Ruth Lomax
Helen Regan

70% there_crop
This part of the campaign felt like the mid-section slump, it was harder to keep going. Also, I felt the responsibility of not failing and losing all the pledges when we had got so close.

Adam and Mariel
Olivia Glasser
Rachel Goodall
Elizabeth Ottosson
Sam Tygier
Juliet Davis
Connor Haynes
Rachel Freeley
Hannah B
Community Pop Ups
Anth Gaskill
Kirstine Pearson
Lewis Coyne
Abigail Pound
Jane Leicester
Karin Frood
Bob McBob
Hayley-Jane Sims
Lucy Cooke
Nadia Batool
Helene Rudlin
Manolia Fuscia
Gill Wright

Me&George_crop
Change of image to try and add some interest at this late stage. We were so close, but yet so far. 

Ruth Rosselson
Emily Johnson
Barbara Iqbal
Ben Halligan
Giselle du Toit
Ruth Struth
Vanessa Jardi
Enterprise Stuff
Tilly Ashton
Angela Scott
Sarah Wakefield
Helen
Gemma Carter
Rob Fox-Bentley
Erica Brook
Pete Fillery
Angulimala
Megan Poole
Christiane Van Doorn
Sabeena Zeghum
Lisa Sangwin

crowdfund success_crop
We hit the target with 5 days left, which was an enormous sense of relief.

Ruth Lomax
Jade Montserrat
Amanda Santana
Juliet Davies
Grace Harrison
Minna Alanko
Bruno Girin
Julie Peet
Juliet Davis
Claire Mace
Sue Cragg
Patrick Cherry
Debbie Ellen
Paul Jones
Melanie Fryer
Stephen Morley
Veronica Ledwith
Melanie Sepiets
Clare Bonetree
Laura Iraine Green
Liz O’Neill
Roberto Siqueiros
Roger Bygott
Pete Abel

rabbit proof fence_crop
We even had time to go for a stretch target of an extra £1k for a rabbit fence.

Richard Sharland
Katy Brown
Sheila Bhati
Jessica Mock
Gemma North
Trish Lorimer
Kate Morrissey
Footprint Workers Co-operative
Jack Laycock
Will Lewis-Clarke
Kay Kennedy
Neil Mercer
Isobel F
Sinead Murphy
Jungla
Tom Wilkinson
Clare McCrory
Charles Dowding
Elizabeth Westaway
Gata
Clairefly
Patricia Spray
Martin Bradshaw
Rob Harrison
Mary Patel
Ruth Woodall
Cathie Pixie
Anne Harrison
Harriet Lucero

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Tomas, Lindsay, Debbie, Katy and Jess (aka Reddy Lane Market Garden steering group) celebrate the result with a bottle of bubbly.

A J Davies
Damian Cross
Janet Bolton
Michelle Obeid
Judith Berry
Darren Whalen
Roy Greenhalgh
Katherine Challen
Natural Choice
Jamie Lentin
Andrea Doyle
Rob Alderson
Alison Ahmed Barrett
John Lever
Sally Westaway
Amy Sykes
Lesley Swann
Sara Dunk
Richard Hunter
Elizabeth Semeonoff
Anna Drews
Ellie and Dan
Scott Clouder
Ben Emissah
Amalia Kostorrizou

new site image
Just when everything was going so well, the original site in Strines falls through, and we change sites to Cheshire. So far our crowd has stuck with us, and we have had lots of messages of support.

Jen Elford
May and George Whalen
Martyn Baldwin
Richard Morris
Lisa Quigley
Ruth Lomax
Beth Creedon
Jean Martin
Elly Pattullo
Valley Organics Co-op
Vicky Hart
Rosie Maguire
Gary Nip
Lou Coombes
Michaela Parnell
Neil Kindsnorth
Dmintransition
George McNamara
Kalsang Shoba
Andrea Dello Siesto
Julian Dearlove
Corin Bell
Marc Dunbill
Sarah Newall
Flourish Together
Kim Whalen
Abbey Rose
Rebecca Warren
Monica Bolton

Together we raised £7839 for growing more organic veg to supply Manchester. Watch this space as our new farm unfolds….

 

Strines falling through

Since meeting the landowners in December, and deciding to go forward with a legal process to rent the site in Strines, there have been numerous delays. There have been difficult negotiations over access and particularly access for volunteers. Planning permission for change of use, and the polytunnels and storage as it is in greenbelt has also not been forthcoming, despite being submitted on 31st January.

It has not been easy but we have had to face facts that this site is just not going to work as we originally understood that it would. This has been upsetting and frustrating. But for us it is important that groups of volunteers can work on the site alongside us. It is also important that we can grow undercover in polytunnels. Therefore we have had to make the difficult decision not to go forward with the growing site in Strines.

We have approached landowners we know in Cheshire, and have agreed to rent ½ acre new site imageof land from them. They are the landowners in Cheshire who owned the land we were renting previously, though it was not them who gave us our notice, but an organisation we were sub-letting from. Renting directly from the landowners gives us security that we did not have before. It is excellent growing soil, it is already organically certified, there is trust between the two parties, and access for volunteers has always been fine. It is so close to where we were growing before that we can see our old site, and the main gate access is still from Reddy Lane, so it’s probably a good job we didn’t change our name!

We have the approximate date of 1st May for seeing the proposed farm business tenancy from the landowners solicitors. Based on previous experience though I am taking a relaxed approach to this deadline.

I have directly emailed everyone who has left a comment saying they were supporting because they were local to Strines and offered a refund. If there are other supporters who only wanted to support because the site was in Strines, but did not explicitly say this, please email me directly on lindsay[at]reddylane.com. I hope that everyone who has pledged their support with our crowdfunder is ok with this. It has been unexpected and disappointing, but you need to be really resilient to be an organic grower. It isn’t the first and it won’t be the last spanner in the works! In the long-term though it is probably better than investing the funding in the site when you are at odds with the landowners from the start.

Please email if you have any concerns.

Thank you crowdfund backers

steering group_crop

Thank you everyone who has backed our crowdfund, which was successfully funded and then some.

After crowdfunder have deducted their fees, we should receive £7302, though it hasn’t arrived yet. It takes 10 working days to arrive. Once it had arrived, we will set about administering the prizes. There are over 133, so please do bear with us.

We are still negotiating about access to the land and volunteers, though somewhat optimistically hope that the site will be set up enough to start running the volunteer sessions by August.

I would like to thank Flourish who believed I could find a new site, and mentored me through the crowdfund process. They support women to create the change they want to see in their local communities. I cannot recommend them enough if you have an idea you want to see happen. They are currently crowdfunding to run the program of seed funding, training and mentoring for another group of women next year. If you have an idea and want to make it happen, attending one of their ‘lunches with’ events and sounding them out is well worth it. It is a £15 prize for a pledge on their crowdfund page.