Inspiring urban agricultural enterprise’s story of success…

Published on November 15, 2013 in Blog, Food
The Severn Project is a social enterprise and Community Interest Company that was founded by Steve Glover (blog author) in April 2010 with start up capital of just £2,500. The farm has been through the most amazing progress and it’s story of success tells us loud and clear that it is possible to have it all: business, growth, community resilience, as well as social and environmental good . Enjoy!


Steve Glover: Autumn is with us and along with Autumn comes a degree of uncertainty and anxiety. The Spring and Summer this year treated us really well with record amounts of produce, and so far Autumn has been fairly gentle and kind. We have been in Templemeads for a year now, and it has really changed the way we view the production of local food and also the engagement of our clients. At the peak of the season we had a “germination to harvest” time of two weeks which enabled us to crop and deliver our record harvest – 320kgs of our mixed leaf and 45kg of herbs in one week.




Our public profile had increased dramatically with over 300 visitors engaging with us this year from all over the world, Spain, Italy, Sweden, USA, Australia; engaged with over 60 clients referred from services in Bristol or self referred. We have created 2 adult apprenticeship programmes and continue to add employees – now employing equivalent of 4 fulltime members of staff – we are also number 49 on the SE100 index.




Our assets have increased to approx £40,000 and our leased land to approx 13 acres which is good news for the community bearing in mind that we are a Community Interest Company with an asset lock – really quite an impressive achievement in the middle of a recession, with no start up capital, no growing experience and a very difficult client base – add to that, of course outcomes around giving opportunities to our volunteers, helping a large number of people with their mental health, offending behaviour and substance misuse issues, while growing and supplying on average 250kgs of fresh organically grown mineral rich food per week totalling approx 10 tons since March. That is approximately two hundred thousand 50g servings of our trademark mixed leaf!!




In other news we have begun working with Leyhill Prison, instructing them in our growing technique and then buying their produce – giving the prisoners the opportunity to begin to bridge the gap between prison and the community – ultimately we will be employing some of these upon release, currently providing hope both inside and outside the gate.


In conjunction with Adaction we entered the procurement process in Bristol for abstinent drug and alcohol work – bidding for a part of a £5m budget – un/fortunately we failed in our bid but we are in discussions with Adaction regarding rolling out The Severn Project to a much wider audience possibly in conjunction with nationwide giant Mitee.


Talking of wider audiences – a recent trip to France and Spain revealed a number of similar organisations to ours and a discussion on how we can work more closely together using trade (simple really) to develop resilience and sustainability – another exciting development which may see a food box based on social impact and those nutritious European items that we all like.


Our site in Whitchurch is next to get the full treatment with investors lined up to help us purchase machinery, polytunnels, finish the farm shop etc. The Keynsham site is now fully used – we have recovered from the senseless vandalism of the late summer.




We have taken delivery of a Brix Refractometer which will enable us to demonstrate mineral content in the food that we sell – also we are working closely with Clare Milar who is a nutritional therapist – she is helping us to demonstrate to our customers that mineral content is very important when we use food as a means of preventing disease not just a pretty and tasty ego boost. Clare incidentally is starting a month long programme of adhering to a war time diet – more info on


When I take a moment to think about how far we’ve come – starting in 2010 with no money, no tools, no polytunnels, no growing experience – and three and a half years later we are in discussions with a number of organisations on a national and international basis I am somewhat overawed. I do think that our demonstrating the process of personal empowerment through the production of food has really grabbed peoples attention – food grown through need tastes better in my opinion – and we have begun to destroy the following myths –

1. to get a growing project together you need massive funds; and

2. only experts can grow food




We are in the process of creating the most innovative and dynamic food and person growing business in the UK.


And adding more products to our list.


Watch this space!


Credits: Images courtesy of Steve Glover

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