Growing groups 2023
We have recently come across several interesting growing groups and projects, from Lancashire to Shetland, and two closer to home:
We have added two more groups, on Raasay and Skye, thanks to information by Anne MacLennan in the Skye Climate Action newsletter.
Visit Sunday 9th July, 1.30 – 4.45
How can we create a more sustainable food system in Skye, Raasay and Lochalsh?
Following the successful visit to Raasay’s Walled Garden earlier this month (see below), on 9 July we visited another inspirational site: West Coast Organics. West Coast Organics was established at Roag in 2015 and currently grows organic vegetables for around 55 households on Skye who get a weekly organic veg box. On 9th July we had a tour of the gardens with the growers Anna and Hanno, followed by a discussion facilitated by Skye Climate Action on how we can support one another to optimise our local food system for residents and planet?
The food system includes everything from production, through transport and packaging, purchase and preparation, to waste minimisation and composting. It impacts on health, environment, pollution, climate, food access and affordability, the local economy and community resilience.
Raasay walled garden
On 10th June, over 30 people converged on Raasay’s Walled Garden for a guided tour of this beautiful and productive area behind Raasay House. We heard about its history going back to the 16th century, and of the mammoth effort required to restore the neglected site in recent years.
The garden is organised in four quadrants, with polytunnels and outside beds, orchard, allotment beds and an area of lawn with rose beds, other flowers and herbs. Plans for further development and restoration were shared. Fresh produce is sold in the Veg Shack at the entrance and in the local shop. This was particularly beneficial during Covid lockdown, and reduced travel off the island. A delicious lunch was provided by local volunteers. I have to recommend nettle and wild garlic soup with home-made bread.
Throughout the event, there was a buzz of animated conversation as people caught up with friends and made new contacts. The conversation was mainly about experiences, challenges and triumphs of growing food in this area. Many tips were exchanged.
After lunch we heard from Rosie Macleod about the Carbon Neutral Islands Raasay project and from Donald Murdie, an experienced crofter and horticulturalist. We then divided into three groups focussed on Growing, Getting or Sharing. This session was masterfully facilitated by Chrissie Gillies to consider four questions: What is working? What is not working? What could work? and What barriers are there? Action points were then discussed by the larger group. Considering the barriers and what could work, three themes evolved:
- land, crofting and resources
- local produce, networks and support
- policy, making our voices heard, and understanding.
Action points were to:
- increase awareness of what is already happening around Skye and Raasay
- extend current provision
- investigate alternatives to the current system(s).
In addition, there was general support for continuing conversations and knowledge-sharing in pursuit of developing a more sustainable food system throughout Skye and Lochalsh. Our thanks go to Katherine Gillies and her team of volunteers in garden and kitchen for making the event such a success.
Transition Turriefield, Shetland
We came across Transition Turriefield in August 2020, and put a reference and link to it on the website with other Transition groups
In June this year (2023), Marion and Peter Moffatt (website editor), had the opportunity to visit Transition Turriefield during a holiday in Shetland, which was remarkable for a week of warm sunny weather. We were welcomed to Turriefield, a former croft in the far west of the Shetland mainland near Sandness, by Penny Armstrong, joint founder, board member and lead grower of the Turriefield project.
The scale and ambition of the project, which had to counter considerable initial local scepticism about the possibility of growing vegetables in Shetland at all, can be seen from their website . The main operation has been a popular veg box scheme following the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) framework under which members undertake to provide volunteer time in exchange for a share of the produce, and they also supply local shops.
In addition Penny and her partner Alan Robertson have obtained funding from Shetland Islands Council Coastal Communities Fund, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and the Shetland Charitable Trust
to set up Grow Shetland, a multi-faceted education and training project which helps to support the growing operation and which they both see as a very important part of their work.
This year Penny and Alan have chosen to scale down production for this season, to allow them to review their operations and make some necessary changes to the way in which they operate. We hope they will be able to find a viable way forward for Transition Turriefield, and wish them every success.
Closer to home, our attention has recently been drawn to this interesting group (www.forresfriends.com), who since 2020 have taken over the custodianship and management of a sizeable area of land on the outskirts of Forres, where they are actively managing the woodland and have started a community garden, with a special area for children.
The group's aims in relation to other environmental groups and the community of Forres are set out in the introduction of their 2021-22 Annual Report
The aim of Forres Friends of Woods and Fields (FFWF) since its establishment in 2020, is to steward 26 acres of land on the edge of the town of Forres, Moray, Scotland.
The charity looks after the Kennel Wood on the ridge to the south of Sanquhar Loch; the adjacent Kennel Field where the horse stable is; and the Chapleton Fields up towards the old farmhouse including parts of the Mosset Burn.
Our land borders that of other well-established environmental organisations in the community of Forres, namely the Sanquhar Pond Group which cares for the Council owned woodlands around Sanquhar Loch, and the Forres Community Woodland Trust, which is restoring the adjoining woodlands. These areas together form a vital and intriguing wildlife and recreational asset to the local town.
Whilst Forres is already blessed with numerous green spaces, it was felt that when this particular piece of land became available, the opportunity was irresistible. Hence, in 2020, it was acquired from the Altyre Estate and its stewardship was taken on by the charity. The fields, once farmland, and the woodland had been neglected and the access and benefits underused by the local population. A
moment had come to fit an important missing piece of the jigsaw into Forres’ green spaces.
Regenerate our Green Space, Fortrose
Still closer to home, Morag Bramwell, from whom we learnt about Forres Friends, is one of the founders and principal promoter of this local group, whose objective is to buy a plot of land on Ness Road in Fortrose, under the Scottish Government's Community Right to Buy legislation and with the support of the Scottish Land Fund
Regenerate Our Green Space was formed in April 2022. Recent world events, and their economic and social consequences had resulted in a change in the way people wish to live, with more people living outside of cities and working from home. One impact locally had been a surge in demand for Allotments at Rosemarkie Allotments & Gardens Society.
The Highland Good Food Conference in 2021 provided inspiration for communities in the Highlands to seriously consider community food growing as a way to reduce “food miles” and increase local knowledge and experience of a more sustainable way of living. We understood the need to build local resilience to be able to cope with the challenges of climate change. We felt that this was the right time to start building that resilience, since there had never been more local/national government and national voluntary organisation support for such initiatives.
. . . .
Our most ambitious project is to create new allotments, community food growing and a community garden. We are currently working on an application to the Scottish Land Fund and Community Right To Buy, to enable us to buy land within the town of Fortrose.
[The first stage of this process has been successfully completed - June 2023]
The group's aims are set out on its website as promoting Sustainable, environment-centred, positive community action.
We aim to inspire, empower and support members of our community to take positive action to develop, lead and participate in projects, learning and activities that are beneficial to both the natural environment and people in our community.
We wish to create places which are useful and beautiful green spaces that are inclusive for people and wildlife, while encouraging a cohesive and strong community spirit.
Volunteers planting a native hedge on Common Good land in Fortrose
Greenslate Farm, Wigan
The Transition Together (Transition Network) newsletter recently reported on a remarkable undertaking near Wigan in the north west of England. A small local Transition group was able to obtain a lease on a disused former council farm from Wigan Council and turn it into a hive of community activity, with hundreds of people visiting, volunteering and learning each month.
'Our plan was a regenerative farm on permaculture principles – obviously it’s not just about how you treat the land, it’s about how you treat your people.
'Now it’s grown to become an extensive care farm, with a number of different support services based on site, and working with a range of partners. The drug and alcohol recovery project will take over running the Strawbale cafe this summer, offering apprenticeships and routes to employment for people in recovery.'
Greenslate Farm, described as 'the Transition care farm with room for all' was the venue for an English Transition national gathering earlier this month (June 2023).
- Saturday 30 September
- NA Highland Good Food Partnership AGMs and local events
- 10:00 North Kessock Community Market
- Saturday 7 October
- 10:30 Community Assembly - Highland Renewable Energy Company?
- 13:00 BLACK ISLE REPAIR CAFE North Kessock Village Hall
- Saturday 14 October
- 10:00 Ardgay Community Market
- NA Cromarty Community Market
- Saturday 21 October
- 10:00 Culbokie Community Market
- Thursday 26 October
- NA Cycling Scotland Conference 2023 - August update
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