Disused site near Welsh hospital to be turned into farmland as part of health board’s sustainability drive
Amanda Davies and Rob Hernando on the site of the proposed new farm near Morriston Hospital in Swansea
Healthy eating will soon take on a whole new meaning with exciting plans to develop a farm on land near Morriston Hospital in Swansea, Wales.
Swansea Bay University Health Board (UHB) has agreed to turn over an area of land to a not-for-profit venture to grow a range of crops – with the wider community, and potentially hospital patients, helping to run it.
Although independently run, the project is being supported by the health board as part of its wider commitment to a more-sustainable future.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) initiatives are partnerships between farmers and consumers in which the responsibilities, risks, and rewards of farming are shared.
They are run by one, or more, principal growers supported by volunteers who are able to learn new skills and enjoy the therapeutic benefits associated with gardening activities.
Funding comes from a variety of sources, including grants and the sale of weekly organic veg boxes to local subscribers.
This is a perfect opportunity to support our communities, increase wellbeing, and encourage greater access to affordable, healthy food
CSAs originated in Japan and North America and are now established across Europe and the UK – including two in Gower.
Swansea Bay UHB became involved after discovering that Swansea’s Food Poverty Network was looking for opportunities to establish further CSAs across a wider area of the city.
The board’s service improvement manger, Amanda Davies, said: “Like many other parts of Wales, we face increasing challenges about how to keep our population healthy.
“We also continue to have health inequalities across different parts of the area.
“We know that people living in Swansea East have a life expectancy of 12 years less than those who live in the west of Swansea.
“We need to think differently about how we address these challenges if we are to have a sustainable health and care service in the future.”
Some time ago, the health board bought land near Morriston Hospital for potential future development.
However, the topography of one part of this land makes it unsuitable to be built on.
But the soil is ideal for growing crops.
“We need to think differently about how we address these challenges if we are to have a sustainable health and care service in the future
Swansea Bay linked up with Cae Tan, a successful CSA based in Parkmill, Gower, and with National Resources Wales to explore the possibility of developing this 7.6-acre site, which comes complete with its own stream.
And the board has now committed to leasing the site, for a peppercorn rent, to a new CSA for 10 years, starting in mid March.
It will be managed by principal grower, Rob Hernando, who has been involved in community projects in the Swansea area since 2014.
He said: “We will spend the first year developing the site. This involves various tasks like improving the access, hardstanding for parking, and improving the fertility of the ground.
“The plan is to plant green manure crops over the field to build fertility for the first growing season, then doing all the other work like fencing, hedging, planting trees, and improving biodiversity.
“The production of food will start around March 2023 and we hope to be able to provide regular food boxes from June that year.”
Davies added: “One of the proposals is for the CSA to provide us with a supply of vegetables on a regular basis.
“I spoke to our catering department and they said that was something they could look into.
“There’s an opportunity that our patients could have fresh organic soup, on a regular basis, improving their health and also reducing our carbon footprint as the food will come from across the road.
“There could also be an opportunity to use the hospital’s food waste for compost.
“This is a perfect opportunity to support our communities, increase wellbeing, and encourage greater access to affordable, healthy food.”