FAMILIES looking for a taste of the Good Life can get a helping hand through a co-operative allotment scheme which is putting down roots in St Ives.

FAMILIES looking for a taste of the Good Life can get a helping hand through a co-operative allotment scheme that is putting down roots in St Ives.

Farm Club is a modern twist on a traditional grow-your-own plot, with expert advice and like-minded families co-operating to learn about where their food comes from.

Based on the "urban farm" model popular in major cities, it gives families the chance not only to try their hand at growing fruit and veg, but also get a bit more adventurous by raising the communally-held chickens, ducks, lambs, pigs and turkeys.

Founder Carol Bailey, 39, who has grown her own produce since childhood, bought the Old Pig Farm in 2008 after giving up her office job and set about rearing and selling chickens at farmers' markets throughout Cambridgeshire.

She started toying with the idea of Farm Club in 2010 when she invited other families to share two acres at the farm.

She said: "I offered other families a slice of land for somewhere to grow vegetables and keep chickens, and it developed into a real community: each of those 10 like-minded families formed a friendship. It became a really pleasant environment for everyone, and the idea of Farm Club developed from there."

Miss Bailey, who runs the site with her partner Stephen Bennett, now has another 13 Farm Club plots available, with 40 more to follow shortly, which she says are large enough to grow regular produce for a family of four.

But Farm Club is about more than just allotments and grow-your-own.

The club holds weekly sessions for members to learn about everything from harvesting to hatching, and is a great way for families to spend time together, said Miss Bailey.

Membership of the Farm Club includes regular social events, Sunday-morning breakfasts in the club's marquee, and a share in the free-range eggs from the farm.

Miss Bailey also hopes to educate youngsters in how their food arrives on their plate, with after-school animal care 'camps' starting in September.

"People who start an allotment are often lacking three things: the knowledge, which used to be passed down, the support, and the time," said Miss Bailey. "We are trying to change that."

Farm Club aims to offer those three commodities, and avoid the pitfalls that see so many hard-won allotments fail early on.

"All owners have an induction with our horticulturist, who guides them throughout the year in their planting and crop rotation, helping them to achieve what they want with their plot.

"There's always something to grow on a well-planned plot, and even in the two winter months when the ground is hard, we put up a polytunnel and set to work seeding and potting."

A "serviced plot" option is also available, in which Miss Bailey and her team take care of the chores of watering, weeding and general maintenance.

INFORMATION: Carol Bailey will be explaining all at the club's open day on Sunday between 10am and 5pm at the site in Meadow Lane, St Ives. To find out more, call 07887576064 or see www.farmclub.co.uk