Ards farm launches new initiative to help lower income families

Organic veg made accessible to all


AN innovative new scheme will be launched in Newtownards this month aiming to make organically produced vegetables available to lower income families at an affordable price.

People in the town can become members of a weekly ‘VegBox’ scheme which means they will receive a share of the produce grown on a local farm, based on what is ready for harvest that week.

Those on low incomes will be offered a 50% discount on the standard price of the box to ensure that everyone is able to access healthy and sustainable food at a price that fits their budget.

It is part of a UK-wide initiative called Bridging the Gap which was set up to test ways in which climate and nature friendly food can be made accessible to everyone.

Ben Vista Farm, in Newtownards, has teamed up with Bridging the Gap to trial the new way of producing food organically with and for the local community through the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) pilot.

Barry Ferguson, whose family have farmed at Ben Vista on the Ballyrogan Road since the 1880s, said part of the vision for the small family farm is to get back towards what the job of farms was a couple of generations ago – producing and supplying fresh food directly to the local community.

“The community supported agriculture approach which we have adopted on one field on the farm isn’t about making profits and developing big business, but more about producing food at a tiny scale and without agrochemicals, with and for, our local community.”  

Through the pilot, which will run from July 19 until Christmas, Ben Vista Farm will be able to supply up to 30 families with a weekly selection from the 40 varieties of veg they have planted.

Barry said: “From talking to people in and around Newtownards there is a clear demand for fresh, organically grown, seasonal vegetables, but often the organic produce is hard to find (or is just not available), costs significantly more than conventionally grown veg and isn’t always the freshest having come from Spain, the Netherlands and even further afield.”  

CSAs are a way of reconnecting the community with farms and for them to get involved in producing their food.

Local people who join the CSA make a commitment to be involved for the season, and in return the growing team commit to work on producing their food, and every week they get a share of that week’s harvest.

Bridging the Gap is providing a subsidy of 50% from the going rate for weekly veg boxes to make the boxes available to everybody, no matter what their income level is. 

The results of the trial will provide evidence for Bridging the Gap to call for the government to introduce longer term policies to enable people on low incomes to access climate and nature friendly food.

As part of this initiative, nearby West Winds Primary School has sent every pupil to the farm over the course of June.

Supported by local organic grower, Biruk Sahle, of Hahu Organics, who has been teaching organic vegetable growing in West Winds Primary School, the school now has two large beds which school pupils and staff helped to plant.

The pupils will be back to the farm after the summer holidays to tend to the vegetables, plant overwintering crops for 2025 (onions, garlic, beans, peas), and harvest their vegetables for several events in school and at community groups in Newtownards in the autumn and winter.  

The Veg Box element of the scheme is now open for registration, and members can contact the CSA via: 

Facebook: Ben Vista CSA 2024: 

Telephone: 07561 033830 






Photo 1: Thomas Ferguson, a P5 pupil at West Winds Primary