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Growing Community

08th May 2019

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How community edible gardens can help you to make friends and build networks

Community-led growing projects are a great way of getting to know the neighbours, especially if you don’t have much green space of your own to use.

They can be a meeting place to swap gardening tips, share cuttings, get growing advice and if it all goes well you could be heading home with a bumper crop of seasonal veg or perhaps a bottle of beetroot wine!

There are plenty of schemes across the UK utilising parks, allotments and public spaces. Creating little green corners in the community for anyone and everyone to benefit from. Katie Hastings volunteers at one such scheme in rural Mid Wales.

The Edible Gardener

Ten years ago Katie was living in the city and lacking a sense of purpose in her life. She fell into a period of bad mental health, suffering from depression and crippling panic attacks. “I went to my doctor as I needed help,” she explains, “and it completely changed my life. The doctor referred me to a walled garden for horticultural therapy”. I have always found being outdoors really calming, but being able to actually put my hands in the soil and make things grow was life changing for me. I was able to work with other people in the garden and see seeds we had sown grow into beautiful plants. I saw people’s lives change for the better through building a relationship with that garden. It enabled me to feel positive about the future again”.

On moving to Wales, Katie set up a veg box scheme with five other people, growing ‘chemical free’ vegetables for the community. The successful box scheme soon grew into the Mach Maethlon, an edible growing community group. “We grew ‘exploding cucumbers’ at the train station, pumpkins at the library and rainbow chard at the fire station. We also built a huge picnic table in the park with apple trees growing out of the middle to encourage people to get together in the outdoors”.

Katie is still one of the volunteer directors of Mach Maethlon and their activities now include cooking workshops, harvest parties and lunch clubs. “We still find food is the perfect way to bring people together in our community from different backgrounds, it’s the perfect leveller”.

Beyond the garden

This summer Katie is taking part in The Big Lunch Community Walk, encouraging a nation of gardeners (and non-gardeners!) to knock on their neighbours and get together for lunch.  “The Big Lunch is everything I stand for,” she explains. “It’s a way to bring loads of people in the community together, to share food, check everyone is doing ok and see if anyone needs help or maybe just a chat. On one weekend we inviting people across the UK to throw open their doors and have lunch together in their street, garden, park or allotment. Anywhere at all that they can share a bite to eat and catch up with their neighbours.”

Want to have fun and make friends where you live?

Supported by The National Lottery, the UK’s biggest neighbourhood celebration is back and this year it is being turned into a TWO DAY event. So why not grab a fork and join in on June 1-2! Everything you need can be found at thebiglunch.com

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