On a sweltering afternoon in July 2021 I was amongst the new volunteers welcomed to CoFarm Cambridge by Pete Wrapson. He is one of the two horticultural experts who have worked wonders to create the city’s first community farm – a ‘magic pop-up allotment’ near my workplace (Barnwell Road). Pete told us how, over the past year, this exciting co-operative enterprise had transformed bare land into a farm that provided a cornucopia of fresh veg to Cambridge’s 9 foodbank hubs. It is a rare Covid good news story, one that has given food, community work and hope to hundreds of local people.
I mucked in with the other volunteers, working on a variety of tasks: harvesting courgettes of all shapes and sizes (“you might find a zeppelin,” said Pete); hoeing weeds and thistles in the sweetcorn patch; loosening and picking beetroot, which is strangely satisfying. I had no idea that there were orange beetroots and ones that had pink spirals when you cut them open, like psychedelic lollipops. These were Chioggia, explained Pete.
We were advised to take it slowly on a sweltering July afternoon, so there were many opportunities to pause and marvel at the variety of crops, flowers and insect life. A buzzard patrolled the treeline. Green woodpeckers yaffled nearby. Dragonflies and bees buzzed past a row of thriving sunflowers. It was hard to believe that this oasis was only a stone’s throw away from the ring-road, or that it had only existed a few months.
I noticed a couple of fishing rods resting on the perimeter fence. Pete explained that they had kites on the end to deter scavenger pigeons. There was also a regular evening visitor who helped with this task – a fox who liked to lurk behind the potatoes and leap out to snare the more dozy birds.
CoFarm Cambridge has been such a huge success that Pete and his team are being encouraged to use their experience and knowledge to mentor similar groups and projects elsewhere in the UK. They also have plans to create an orchard and café on the Cambridge site, where invited groups will be able to cook recipes which include the veg they have just picked.
For further info, see their website: https://www.cofarm.co/cambridge