Harvest is a project under the umbrella of Exeter Community Initiatives (ECI) that began in April 2010 and which aims to ‘spread the growing bug’, building skills and confidence for people to grow their own food.
ECI looks for gaps in services to the people of Exeter and fills them where possible. Focusing on groups and individuals experiencing disadvantage, there was a perceived need to build community and resilience for a changing future. The Harvest Project is designed to address this, using food growing as a vehicle for community building, confidence building, and skills development, as well as having obvious environmental and health and wellbeing benefits.
Harvest encourages people to grow food through:
· Providing 'starter kits' for people with limited space to grow their own Harvest Mini Garden.
· Providing training and ongoing support to new growers.
· Enabling community members to share their skills and knowledge.
· Supporting schools in their food growing activities.
· Identifying sites for community growing.
· Promoting the health and wellbeing, environmental and economic benefits of growing food.
□ We are very excited to be launching Exeter’s (possibly the world’s?!) first ever Permaculture Pub at the NBI, St David’s Hill, Exeter. This is a joint project with Permaculture and Organic Growers of Exeter. Permaculture is a system for living and growing food which mimics nature’s processes and uses design principles to get the most out of a growing space. Two local permaculturists introduced a group of volunteers to the design process. The volunteer’s story below tells what happened next.
□ St Sidwell’s Community Garden Challenge is a competition to see who can get the most value from their raised bed in the community garden at St Sidwell’s Centre, a community centre in the heart of Exeter. Inspired by a London grower who produced £750 worth of produce on his balcony, the teams have until the end of September to grow as much as they can using organic methods.
□ Community Growing – Harvest can support people and groups who want to grow food together in Exeter. If you are an existing community
- group, or an informal group of friends and neighbours who would like to start a community garden. Harvest can:
- help identify suitable land, and liaise with owners if necessary.
- help groups to develop constitutions and work through any legal issues.
- help you publicise your project and support your fundraising efforts.
- provide practical support and guidance for getting started.
- recruit volunteer Growing Champions to provide ongoing support to a group.
□ Cowick Allotment – a group of volunteers have been busy clearing and planting an allotment plot on Cowick Lane. The plot has been very productive and is providing new gardeners with an opportunity to learn together about growing food on an allotment scale.
□ Guinness Trust Dreamscheme – Harvest has worked with the Guinness Trust to help 20 children create a community garden on Guinness Lane, Exwick. The garden will provide winter greens, broccoli, garlic, leeks and salad and will be nutured by the local children, with support from a Harvest Growing Champion.
□ City Fruit Harvest invites tree owners who can’t manage all their own fruit to donate surplus fruit to the project. Scouts will ascertain when the fruit will be ripe, and arrange dates for harvesting. A group of harvesters will go and pick the fruit. The tree owner gets first pick of the harvest. Good quality fruit will be distributed to where it is needed, such as homeless charities, children’s centres, refugee support group. Any damaged fruit gets turned into juice, jam, chutney, etc.
□ Seedy Sunday is an opportunity to swap with other growers seeds, seedlings, plants and produce grown, picked, baked, pickled or preserved and meet other gardeners and share tips.
Big Lottery Fund’s local food fund. This paid for two full time workers who needed office space (available within ECI’s premises). The workers immediately set about recruiting volunteers. We have had donations of various resources (seeds, plants, compost, other materials, expertise, etc) from a range of businesses and organisations locally.
We continue to look for bits of funding for specific activities, and there is a shortfall in our budget over the life of the project which we are trying to address. We are permanently on the look-out for more volunteers. Apart from the grant from the Big Lottery Fund, current sources of funding are grants from local councillors plus lots of donations in kind. There has also been non-financial support from some local councillors as well as from various organisations.
Harvest has links with various local food education projects, schools, community centres, youth groups, children’s centres and other grassroots community organisations and now a project is being developed in collaboration with Exeter Islamic Centre and Exeter University.
· Growing Champions are trained volunteers who will offer support to Incredible Edible Mini-Gardeners. It doesn't matter how old or young you are, or how much or how little you know. All you need is a bit of passion for growing food and the willingness to share that passion with new gardeners. We provide two days of free training so that volunteers feel confident about supporting other people and helping them to get growing. The commitment after that is up to the volunteer but, at a minimum , the expectation is that s/he will be prepared to support 5 new growers over the course of a year, maybe as little as a visit and a few phone calls to each grower.
· Events Volunteers - Harvest will be organising and attending a range of events throughout the year. We need people to help with all aspects of putting on events, from planning, leafleting, delivering materials to being present on the day, helping with planting workshops, clearing up etc.
· Drivers with their own vehicles are always needed for collecting and delivering materials (compost, containers, tools, plants etc). Mileage is paid.
· building good links with other organisations;
· working collaboratively with other agencies.
We hope to build on the successes of the first year. We are becoming better known in Exeter, which generates more opportunities to get more people involved in more activities.