Urban Growing

Sims Hill: working with asylum seekers to provide growing opportunities  

By Chloe and Anna

We hear from Chloe and Anna, growers at Sims Hill, a member-owned and cooperatively run community-supported agriculture scheme (CSA) in Stapleton. Anna and Chloe write about the work Sims Hill are doing to provide opportunities at the farm for asylum seekers, refugees and people affected by the migration system. 

Over the past two seasons at Sims Hill we have been hosting a session for asylum seekers, refugees and people affected by the migration system to come and volunteer to get agroecological farming experience in our market garden. People are invited to do a placement with us at the farm – getting involved in harvesting, cultivations, bed preparations, propagation, packing and maintenance in the market garden. We encourage people to come to eight sessions. Many people have stayed on for the season. 

The farming sessions provide an opportunity for people to access nature, wellbeing and fresh food. An important part of our work as a CSA is to build social networks that nurture wellbeing. CSAs are farms whose members contribute their skills, time and money in return for fresh, local and naturally grown vegetables. It’s a partnership between farmers and members in which the responsibilities, risks and rewards of farming are shared. 

A on his own plot

We have had people as part of this project who have been in Bristol for many years waiting for asylum decisions, people who have been resettled and granted status and new arrivals to the city. 

We collaborate with support organisations such as Borderlands, Bristol Hospitality Network and others to connect with people living in the city. This year we have worked to make links with people who are stuck living in hotels in Filton without access to a kitchen or outdoor space.

As part of our work with asylum seekers we have created some small training plots for people to independently grow food on our site. Many of the people coming to our Thursday farming sessions have experience working on farms or the land in their home country, growing everything from pistachios, fruit, vegetables and more. With very limited access to growing or green space, the need for creating access to land and food in Bristol and beyond is vital.  

Having completed an eight-week series of farming sessions, we supported two people to get started on their own plots. We also opened up a new area adjacent to our market garden. With access to tools, resources and occasional advice from our trainee growers at Sims Hill, two plots have been transformed from overgrown weedy areas to very productive plots.

The plots are in full production now and harvests have been donated to Bristol Hospitality Network and Borderlands for weekly cooking and drop-in sessions over the past two months.

Thursdays are our favourite day of the week – it’s so important for us that people are welcomed into our farm community.

Sims Hill's first mentee's first harvest at Sims Hill
Our first mentee’s first harvest at Sims Hill

Last year Chloe worked as a mentor with our first mentee, who has been given refugee resettlement in the UK. They were previously a farmer and grower and came to Sims Hill as our first paid mentee on our grant-funded mentor project for six months last season. The focus of the mentorship was on providing agro-ecological training and an opportunity for paid employment. The mentoring included sessions on employment such as CV writing and job searching, and also on building networks with other farms in Bristol, land ownership and distribution in the UK, and agroecological and organic farming practices.

We are very excited to share that this year we have been supporting them to take on their own market garden plot on our site. They have sown the first seeds and started harvesting their first crop of rocket. Our growers are supporting them to look at routes to market and avenues for selling produce, and they hope to grow specialty crops and varieties from their home country.

We very much want to thank our mentor project funder Quartet for supporting our work with asylum seekers and refugees for the last two seasons.

Joining Sims Hill CSA and buying a weekly veg share from us supports this work. For more information on how to sign up check out our website and follow us on Instagram to keep updated.

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