The Fold: “how inappropriate land use can damage soils”

The University of Worcester works with a local community farm, The Fold, to help spread the message on how inappropriate land use can damage soils. Written by Katy Boom. Edited by Rosie Bramwell.

Globally, the most frequent cause of hunger is poverty. Supporting students in a cost-of-living crisis means looking at the food source. Helping them to grow their produce to help feed themselves, and work with local farmers and producers to help improve food production that doesn’t damage natural resources is a vital part of this. This is an important role for a University.

Inappropriate land use and damaged soils

Soil degradation happens if farmers lack knowledge and information about the harmful impacts of nitrogen based fertilizers and pesticides, and information on how to use what they have effectively and efficiently. By supporting a local regenerative community farm and helping to disseminate their methods, the University contributes towards reducing food poverty.

Farmers can lack skills to protect food crops in the field and skills to process and store food. Inappropriate land-use can damage natural resources which is a lifeline for them. It is crucial to invest in Human Resources: supporting the growing and farming communities’ knowledge and information at the centre of agricultural and development efforts – universities can be at the forefront of that.

The Fold Community Farm in Bransford is run as a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). This is a partnership between farmers and consumers in which the responsibilities, risks and rewards of farming are shared. CSA aims to provide farmers with a more stable and secure income, and connect them with their local community. In return, the community benefits from eating fresh, healthy, and local food, feeling more connected with the land and learning new skills.

Staff from The Fold turned to the University to help gather market research from students when establishing their new Veg Box scheme. The university and The Fold have worked together on several projects. For example, creating the Nature Trail signboards and wayfinding and attending and supporting Go Green Weeks. Here staff and students can learn more about all aspects of sustainability including how inappropriate land use can damage natural resources.

Discussions and input centred around:

  • What constitutes a sustainable veg box scheme? Is it organic? Is it local? How many miles is local? Seasonal? Grown under glass/heated?
  • How viable are these business models at a national scale?
  • The role of supermarkets.
  • Challenges impacting farmers.
  • Demand from customers.

The key difference to a traditional veg box, where you have no engagement with the farm except purchasing a box, is that you become a shareholder of the Farm’s harvest and a member of the Fold Community Farm. In return, they offer free community events, such as seasonal farm tours, communal meals, and volunteer days on the farm.

This model puts you in touch with seasonality, members share the harvest. This means that in the summer, veg shares will reflect the rich abundance of the seasonal produce grown in warmer months. In the cold months of winter, when fewer things grow, boxes are smaller.

Community on campus

Students at the university have ongoing concerns with the cost of living crisis. On campus, we have an allotment and gardening society, where students are supported in growing projects. The society aims to make people feel comfortable in nature and feel confident in looking after the environment around them.

Take a look at our Instagram, @uw_sustain, for details about the Community Cupboard and Food Donation Point on the St Johns campus!

The Community Cupboard is a two-way system for students to donate and take whatever they need. This includes dry food, tins, toiletries and sanitary products. The Food Donation Point (Hines Building, St Johns) shares its donations with the local and surrounding community.

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