“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves as something to aim at.” – Bruce Lee
We want our wee farm enterprise to be a centre of excellence. We want people to come here and see clearly how it is possible to work together to feed our ourselves from local soils. We want a strong community, strong bonds with our neighbours, the best crops and a thriving social enterprise. We want to create a broad range of opportunities for training and learning to enable people to find careers in local food businesses. We want to use every space on the farm to sustain jobs and careers. We want all of this from about 5 acres of rocky ground and a walled garden on the edge of West Lothian.
These are lofty goals, but it is always worth taking a look back in time to remind ourselves how far we have come. From when it was purchased by Cyrenians in 1970 the farm has always been a strong community. It was initially held in the wee cottage by Pam and Nick Rodway where a home was made for a group of people with very tough lives who may not have found a sense of place anywhere else. The first tatties were planted soon after and the ‘Kinrura’ smallholding became Cyrenians Farm. Through time, many small efforts were made to make the farm productive. Cow’s were milked, eggs were gathered, pigs were petted and a myriad of veg beds were developed and then left to go to pot. The transient nature of the residential community here having a natural ebb and flow of enthusiasm for each growing project has, in the past, meant that veg production has been rather sporadic. In the mid-90’s the community grew when a new residential building was created in partnership with Castle Rock housing association. At that point in time, some more permanent veg beds were created and a permanent field system was devised. This meant that the community were able to grow more than ever before and small surpluses sold on ‘the salad run’ at Cyrenians head office and to workers in surrounding organisations. This was a brave first foray into enterprise.
In 2004, the decision was made by the Cyrenians board to formalise the enterprise and funds were raised to grow the infrastructure. I joined then as farm worker and we set up about building polytunnels, planting hedges, removing fences, removing sheep, planting orchards, feeding our soil and many more projects to build our productive capacity. There was a lot to do before we reached a good productive capacity back then so while we waited for the trees and bushes to mature we still did the same old salad run and spent a pleasantly large amount of time playing football with the farm volunteers and residents. This, you must understand, was a ‘motivator’ for the young folk as after all too much work and no play isn’t a good thing. Or so I was told… by them.
Since then the farm infrastructure has grown mightily to include 2 massive Keder houses, a small Keder for propagation, 250 fruit trees, a packing shed with refrigerated storage, 6 other polytunnels and much more. In 2004 we maybe made about £10k from enterprising activity. This year we’re aiming for £80k. We’re currently working on growth plans that might see that rise to £230k by 2023! Of course we can’t grow enough food here to make so much money but instead we will seek to use our assets, including the cumulative knowledge and experience of staff and volunteers here, to open up more lines of enterprise. We want to stand on our own two feet and cushion our project from the increasingly chaotic climates of economy, politics and nature. Maintaining a safe space for people of all walks of life.
As is currently being described by others across our social media the Cyrenians have come a long way since our inception 50 years ago. As the central scrutineer of the farm enterprise I am standing on the shoulders of giants, past and present, and my role is simply to try and keep a balance and make sure folk who work with us here remember what our goals are and what we want to achieve. Plans have come and gone, capacity has grown but the goal remains the same and we have taken many steps to achieving that.
Our CEO Ewan has said recently that it is a shame that Cyrenians work is still required 50 years after it started and it is true that none of us would hope to be tacking the same social issues 50 years hence. That much I agree with. I do see the farm existing in 50 years though. No matter what happens. I think it will always be a place where people can come together, grow, cook, eat and enjoy each others company. Our current society makes that a necessity for some. In the future perhaps Cyrenians Farm, and many places like it, will once more be hubs of community strength and resilience for people of all ages and backgrounds by their own choice without the pressure of societal issues. That’s our goal. To get there we just need to keep doing more of what we do and bring more people to our wee oasis of calm.
Now, if the Scottish national football team could only have as a clear an idea of where their goal is we might make it to the next World Cup. Here’s hoping….
(PS: We’d LOVE to host music and dance events here at the farm, get in touch if you can bring an event here. We’d like to celebrate Cyrenians 50th year in style).