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Food Heroes 'Feed Bristol' - growing food and community spirit

Posted by Ursula Billington Campaigns Assistant

28th Sep 2012

Feed Bristol is empowering people to become involved in land and community again, and helping fix the food system along the way.

 Feed Bristol is only a 15 minute bus ride from central Bristol but it feels a million miles away, an oasis on the outskirts of the city. The area along this stretch of the M32 used to be populated with market gardens and small holdings, literally feeding Bristol with fresh local produce. But the businesses were undercut by supermarkets and the land has been disused for years - until March 2012 when Matt Cracknell took on 7 acres and set about restoring it to its original purpose. He and his team of Seasonal Grower Susan Rogers and volunteers have had huge success, clearing the ground of junk, building a teaching barn, and developing wildlife walks and a forest garden as well as defying one of the worst growing seasons on record to produce tons of beautiful, colourful organic veg.

The project's aim is to encourage those who wouldn't normally to access food growing and nature. The hope is that as many different people will connect with the project as possible, from the local community, schools and marginalised groups to teachers and practitioners. The project supports the wider strategic view of the Bristol sustainable food network, but links in at a higher level than grassroots food growing: also focusing on outdoors socialising, learning and connecting with the land; supporting vulnerable individuals; and national food and land justice campaigns.

Feed Bristol is helping to create a fairer food system for all by supplying fresh fruit and veg at reasonable prices directly to those who need it, "so they don't have to buy low quality mass-produced food from chains" says Matt. The local community now spend time either regularly working the land at the project or beating a path to its gate demanding fruit and vegetables. They currently supply the local Nursing Home, a large proportion of whom are dementia sufferers: "they were so excited when we delivered the fresh produce - the whole place was buzzing! The chef was happy too, and the Manager has reported an immediate positive impact on residents' health. It's fantastic to have tangible evidence of the impact of our efforts". It's also about overcoming barriers: "At first they thought they couldn't accept the food as they didn't know where it had come from - as in it didn't have a supermarket label on it, never mind that they can look over a hedge from the Home and see it growing. This is the attitude we want to change". Matt aims to broaden their supply to hostels, schools and markets further afield.

Matt works hard to maintain a sense of wellbeing at Feed Bristol, inspired by the social element of the project where volunteers would rather share plots than work individually. He allows helpers flexibility, creativity and as much responsibility as they want, working to meet their needs as he's aware that success so far is purely down to People Power. Matt's top tip is something we could all implement in our back gardens, community allotments or larger scale growing projects and reflects this emphasis on people care: "grow herbs like mint, lemon verbena and camomile for teas - they look pretty and smell nice; they attract insects; and we can all get together to share freshly-picked tea at the end of the day!"

To read about more Food Heroes and to nominate your own, click here.

Blog post written by Ursula Billington

Campaigns Assistant

More by Ursula Billington