A PUBLIC meeting is being held in Winterbourne Down to gauge local opinion for a village farm.

The newly established Beacon Farms coop is calling its first open meeting to discuss Beacon Lane Starter Farm, which aims to use a strip of rich soil alongside the M4 motorway to grow food for the community.

Winterbourne resident and geographer at the University of the West of England, Richard Spalding, was the first to dub the agricultural land the ‘blue finger’, for its appearance on 1950s land classification maps.

“The strip of rich soil runs alongside the motorway from Stapleton and into South Gloucestershire and what was once Bristol’s market gardening quarter is now inspiring a local food growing renaissance,” he said.

“In just the past three years, this fertile land has grown two pioneering food producing projects: Sims Hill Shared Harvest, a community supported agriculture enterprise (CSA), and Feed Bristol, Avon Wildlife Trust’s community food growing project.

“Beacon Lane Starter Farm is the next ambitious and groundbreaking initiative to locate itself on the blue finger.”

The Beacon Farm coop plans to acquire up to 80 acres of land, just off Beacon Lane near to Winterbourne Medieval Barn, where the team hopes to create an ‘incubator farm’ providing would-be farmers with the skills and confidence they need to become commercial food producers.

Project manager Bonnie Hewson said: “We were inspired by the quality of the soil and the history of the area, which make it the perfect setting for an ambitious forward-looking agriversity – an educational market garden producing high quality, sustainably grown local food and high quality growers for the future.

“It will focus on practical hands-on training for new horticulturalists, taking them right through to a point where they are ready to set up their own land based business.

“However, as not all of the site is suitable for vegetable production there may also be some conservation grazing, a micro-dairy, orchards, meadows and wildlife conservation zones, especially around areas that can be accessed by the footpaths that criss-cross the landscape.”

The project has been inspired by similar schemes in Canada and Manchester. The business model for Winterbourne is still being developed and local residents are being urged to have their say on the details of the scheme.

The public meeting takes place in All Saint’s Church Hall, Winterbourne Down on Tuesday, March 4 (6.30pm). urges interested people to get involved and help shape the project by attending the meeting in Winterbourne Down on 4th March (6.30pm, All Saint’s Church Hall).

For more information search Beacon Lane Start Farm on Facebook or follow @BeaconFarms on Twitter.