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'Lets get growing' community intiative - Food Hero

Posted by Abigail Grace President of The University of Exeter Oxfam Society, and National Youth Board Member

24th Oct 2012

Abigail Grace introduces 'Lets get growing', a community initiative in the New Forest to get people gardening

'Let's Get Growing' is a community-lead initiative which aims to encourage local people with no access to land to make use of unused land and grow their own food by forming partnerships with those who own the land.

Having been given a small grant by the New Forest District Council in 2010 to create a project around local food production, Community First New Forest began to assess the needs of people living in the Ringwood area.

Despite there already being allotments in Ringwood, it was clear that they were not sufficient; they were oversubscribed, expensive and plot sizes were too large for many residents to cope with. Inspired by groups such as Transition Towns to make use of community land to support a more sustainable method of food production, the group came up with the idea of a garden share scheme.

It was clear that many residents were not utilising their garden spaces. Equally, many people from deprived backgrounds or low-income households did not have access to land. The opportunity for partnerships in which both sides, as well as the environment were guaranteed to benefit, became the main focus of the group's efforts.

Members pay a small annual subscription fee, a partnership is set up with someone in the community and they are then supported until the relationship becomes self-sustaining. The key to a successful garden share system, the group believe, is keeping it simple and informal. The group founder, Deborah Grace said, "although we publicise the group and encourage people from all corners of the community to get involved, it can't become too bureaucratic or complicated otherwise people don't want to commit" - it's all about responding to the group's needs, getting it to grow "organically" if you will.

Encouraging people to question the origins of their food and increasing awareness of the food system, the scheme results in less waste; people are less likely to throw away food they have spent hours nurturing and so come up with ingenious ways to preserve or are encouraged to share produce with neighbours and friends, thus strengthening the community focus of the scheme.

Community members can see the benefits of a sustainable, local and seasonal method of food production and leading people to rethink the way they consume food

The social advantages of building intergenerational partnerships in the community; the economic benefits of cheap, healthy food; and of course, the knock on effects of showing how food can be done differently all combine to make this project a great example of how local food heroes can help fix the global system. 

Blog post written by Abigail Grace

President of The University of Exeter Oxfam Society, and National Youth Board Member

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