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Key Findings & Lessons Learned
October 2009 - October 2012
Executive Summary Key Achievements Key Learning Points Bringing more land into Community Food Production Land Mapping Surveying Provision & Gauging Demand Supporting Access to Land Sharing Skills for Food Production Network Building Recommendations Creating a Lasting Legacy Case Studies Access to Land Roadshow Get Growing Support Fund Incredible Edible Somerset Open Gardens Local Conferences Contact Details 5 6 7 8 11 2 3 3 4 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
The Somerset Land & Food Project has been a three year access to land project, launched in 2009 and funded by the Big Lottery Local Food Programme. It was managed by Somerset Community Food, a grassroots charity founded in 2004, which aims to re-connect people with the social, health and environmental effects of growing, buying, preparing and eating local food. The project involved four paid staff members – Linda Hull (full time), Hannah May (part time from October 2009-2011), Nicole Vosper (part time from October 2011-2012) and Finance Officer Angela Durbacz, supported by a group of trustees.
Staff from the Somerset Land and Food Project would like to acknowledge with thanks the advice and inspiration of Allan Cavill of the National Society of Allotments and Leisure Gardens, the mapping expertise of Mark Thurstain-Goodwin and team at Geofutures and the ongoing support of Somerset Community Food Trustees: Kim Robinson, Kath Wilson, Peter Millar, Susanna Damann and Sue Chant. Last but not least, thanks must go to Sarah and Paul Sander-Jackson for winning the financial support of the Big Lottery’s Local Food Programme.
Back in early 2009 when Somerset Community Food was considering how to continue its mission to support community food projects, there was a Grow Your Own revolution sweeping the nation. Record numbers of people were registering on waiting lists for allotments up and down the country and it seemed there was just not enough land to go round. Local consultation with a range of partners including many of the county’s new “Transition Initiatives” indicated that access to more land was an important requirement to progress community led responses to the impacts of climate change and to enable reduced dependence on fossil fuels. Somerset Land and Food was therefore devised to investigate this phenomenon in our own county and to facilitate further access to land for community growing, where possible. The project set out to negotiate with landowners and enable new growers to learn skills and exchange existing skills with others in the emerging network. Face to face gatherings were planned twice a year to bring like-minded people together with a view to creating a partnership that would go on beyond 2012. During the course of the project, approximately 10 hectares (24 acres) of new land has been brought into production right across the county most often by individuals joining forces, forming new associations and approaching local landowners directly with offers of financial return in exchange for a patch of land to grow on. The National Society of Allotments and Leisure Gardens has spearheaded this. The Land and Food Project has supported many of these groups by offering them resources to buy training, tools, fencing, sheds, polytunnels, compost and seeds to help them get growing successfully as quickly as possible. Our conferences have been staged in every district in the county as have our Access to Land public meetings, which have provided opportunities for people to meet, get to know each other, exchanging knowledge, skills and experience about finding land and starting to grow food, sometimes for the first time. A brand new Open Gardens Scheme, launched in 2012, saw pioneering projects open their doors to curious gardeners from all over Somerset. The delivery of this project has not been without its challenges. Such a pioneering and complex project requires sufficient people to share a clear vision of what the aims and objectives are and what the real need is that the activity of the project is trying to meet. It started just as the recession and cuts were hitting home here in Somerset disrupting and dismantling many organisations active on community and sustainable development issues. This meant that strategic allies were hard to come by. Additionally, meaningful engagement with our intended target audience also proved difficult to achieve. Was this because the urgency of access to land was not so great, or the notion of increased access to land was actually more theoretical than real, or was it simply that the capacity of these groups was too stretched for them to be more involved? The answer is probably a mix of all three. Luckily, the project and staff were flexible enough to allow a certain re-shaping to respond to the actual needs identified by the groups who did engage. Another challenge, internal to Somerset Community Food, was that a key trustee, who developed and championed the project within the organisation, was unable to stay involved for personal reasons. This effectively meant that other trustees had to pick up the reins of a project which they had not been instrumental in creating. In terms of governance of the project this also had a knock on effect on the clarity and quality
Somerton Allotments Association celebrating their success in accessing land
of shared vision, which added to the absence of other strategic partners. Despite this, the role of trustees, or members of a project management group, must not be underestimated when it comes to the governance structure necessary to adequately deal with the financial management and reporting requirements of a Big Lottery grant. Without the backing of an established organisation and trustees with the requisite skills and expertise, which Somerset Community Food in this case provided, such a big and complex project would have been more than project staff could have managed alone. That is to say that functions such as payroll, HR and financial management, over and above simple book keeping, are absolutely essential to the smooth and legally compliant delivery of such a project. On balance, much has been achieved by the project in locating and quantifying community growing space and demand for land as expressed by waiting lists. This mapping has made the patchwork of allotments, community gardens and orchards, therapeutic horticulture projects and the like much more visible and connected than they were previously. Access to land remains an important issue, which must not be forgotten especially as the Government has recently announced 1500 squares miles of land must be built on to fulfil the housing need in this country. Like gardeners who prepare the soil, the Somerset Land and Food project has created rich conditions for growth for the community food networks in Somerset. As no other organisation in Somerset works on mapping access to land, development of skill-sharing networks and events or offering basic training, we can now build on the groundwork we have laid with staff time and resources to support the cross pollination between actors such as land owners, individuals on allotment waiting lists, community projects and charities. In this way, all our contacts will continue to benefit from membership of the emerging Incredible Edible Somerset social network. One of the key messages repeated time and again from people on the ground is that it’s not just about growing food – far and away the most important aspect for many people of growing together is the social aspect: the new friends made, the sharing of top tips at the water butt or the fun had at seed swaps and harvest shows. What people are really growing is a sense of community, pride in their own efforts at doing battle with the weather and the slugs and a real sense of achievement and satisfaction at being able to include something home grown at nearly every meal. The community food network is alive and kicking in Somerset and deserves more recognition and support to widen its reach and deepen its influence in spreading the message that it’s good for the health, good for the bank balance and good for the soul to grow some part of your daily food. Turn to our recommendations and join us in their implementation! Linda Hull Project Co-ordinator, December 2012
Mapping and evidencing need
* Surveyed over 300 parish councils to produce the county’s first digital, publicly accessible map of allotments and community food growing spaces at foodmapper.org.uk * Plotted and quantified the amount of land available for community growing and identified the demand for land hotspots in Somerset
* Some districts have much more community growing space than others. Taunton Deane Borough Council is unique in the county having developed an Allotment Strategy requiring developers to make community growing space available as part of Section 106 agreements and Community Infrastructure Levies. * Parish councils have a statutory duty to provide allotments. They report that would-be allotmenteers can underestimate the time, energy and skills needed to grow food effectively and drop out rates can be high. * Councils prefer instead to manage waiting lists by reducing the size of allotment plots by half or thirds when they come up for re-letting. This makes smaller plots available to new growers but effectively reduces the amount of land available to individuals to grow food. * There are opportunities for landowners to lease land for financial return but they want to see clear local leadership and evidence of need before making offers of land. * Getting the right fit between what a landowner needs and wants and what the community needs and wants can be a long drawn out process. By contrast, a willing landowner and a well-organised group can make fast headway and a bare field can be transformed into a highly productive space in a matter of months. * Small private landowners and housing associations seem most willing to make land available for community based growing. * People on waiting lists who really want to grow food will be satisfied more quickly in their search for a plot when they take matters into their own hands, create independent and autonomous self managed associations and organise together to approach willing landowners directly. Strong local co-ordination and, in some cases, sustained lobbying, is the key to accessing land. * Challenges faced by people seeking land include objections from neighbours, competition from developers and overcoming landowners’ misconceptions that they will lose control of what happens on their land. * There is a missing generation of growers and huge opportunities exist for increasing access to training in how to grow food. As Somerset is a big, rural and sparsely populated county, learning opportunities need to be widespread, location based and financially affordable.
Capacity building and skill sharing
* Supported 17 groups, bringing more than 10 hectares of new allotments and community gardens into production, to get established by granting them a total of more than £24,000 to buy training, tools, sheds, fencing, compost, soil and seeds benefiting over 1200 people * Enabled over 1000 people to share skills on how to cook, grow, harvest and process food, how to access land, buy land, set up therapeutic horticulture projects and manage smallholdings * Ran a series of 5 roving workshops to bring together landowners, parish councillors and those seeking land to hear from panellists’ recent local experience in accessing new land * Staged the first ever Incredible Edible Somerset Open Gardens Scheme involving 9 workshops at 11 different growing spaces visited by 135 people
Network development and knowledge transfer
* Staged over 40 events including six network conferences involving over 1200 people and more than 400 organisations and community groups * Developed a database of over 1000 contacts regularly sending them the Somerset Local food Update with land and food news including training and volunteering opportunities * Designed innovative social networking capability at incredible-edible-somerset.ning.com
Key Learning Points
* Approximately 108 hectares (266 acres) of land available for community growing in Somerset, mainly in the form of allotments.
* Opportunities are not restricted to courses & events - skills * Approximately 1100 people are on waiting lists. The hotspots are exchanged continuously and learning from others, for include Taunton, Wells, Cotford St Luke, Wellington, Chard and example at allotments or community gardens can be one of the Burnham. These are sizeable in some places such as but our best ways to learn. research with parish councils has shown that numbers on lists are not, in themselves, the most robust indicator of proactive demand for land. Diggers Field in Langport, was the first half hectare of new land to be brought into community food production in 2010
Bringing more land into Community Food Production Land Mapping
A first step for the project was to survey and map current access to land and demand. Working with Geofutures, Bath based GIS specialists as well as a partnership of interested parties including South West Food and Drink, the Regional Food and Health Team from SW Dept of Health, Western Somerset Local Action for Rural Communities and West Somerset Living Well Programme, Foodmapper was born - a unique online map of community based food production in Somerset. Foodmapper gathers previously scattered and lacking data on allotment provision, evidencing the need for more access to land. This online database visually displays the locations in Somerset where waiting lists exist and where there is no access to community growing space. This enables groups searching for land, and new stakeholders of all sorts, to use comparative data to prove the need, and lobby for, the creation of new growing space. These gaps in provision, which may also indicate skill deficient areas, have now been quantified. The map is also a “directory” of community growing spaces and our mapping of community food projects, which welcome new members and volunteers, enables those on waiting lists to find and get involved in projects immediately, helping them to develop useful transferable skills for when they move onto their own plots. Foodmapper has also given 150+ growing spaces an online presence where many may have had none before. Foodmapper plots details of who uses and owns the land (where known), including contact details for the relevant community group plus data about number and size of plots, land use, topography, boundaries, availability of water, storage facilities and more. The result is a unique, publicly accessible digital map of all the allotments and many community gardens, community orchards, market gardens, therapeutic horticulture projects and food-related initiatives in the county.
* 205 hectares of land have now been plotted * 175 growing spaces mapped, most of them allotment sites, but including 7 community orchards. * 57 community groups listed with contact details, 80 landowners - many town and parish councils and local food initiatives including 21 local producers, 23 country and farmers markets, 7 food co-ops, 7 community gardens * 200 registered users * Mapping began by plotting the growing spaces in the10 market towns with the wards of highest deprivation. * Full audit now complete after surveying 300 parish councils. * Mapping was undertaken district-by-district in advance of local public meetings. * Volunteers were supported to map their areas. * New projects are continuously being added as they are found out about.
Key Learning Points about Foodmapping
Strengths: * Accurate data now exists about allotment provision in Somerset. * Foodmapper has made the network of projects visible and connected in a way not previously available. * This map will endure as a tangible product of the project’s research. * Records are accessible to the public. Weaknesses: * Finding volunteers with skills and time to map their local areas consistently & systematically. * Limitations of the website. * Records are only accessible to people on the internet.
Looking at this map, where the dark green circle is Bristol’s food footprint, it can be seen that half of Somerset is needed to feed the city.
Surveying Provision & Gauging Demand
A full audit of provision was completed in 2012, after liasing with more than 300 parish councils. Consistent data was needed to present to landowners. Results of the survey showed that there are approximately 108 hectares (266 acres) of land available for community growing in Somerset, mainly in the form of allotments. Approximately 1100 people are on waiting lists and latent demand suggests this number should be doubled to reflect people who don’t appear on waiting lists, either because they don’t know how to register or feel lists are too long to bother. Waiting list numbers ebb and flow. The table below gives a snapshot of demand in 2012. District, population and territory South Somerset (pop 158,000, area 95,906 ha) Taunton Deane (pop 112,682, area 46,250 ha) Sedgemoor (pop 116,524, area 60,587 ha) Mendip (pop 110,000 area 73,943 ha) West Somerset (pop 35,000, area 74,705 ha) Amount of allotments 40 hectares 26 hectares 22 hectares 12 hectares 8 hectares Total waiting list 277 400 127 250 61
This detailed data has been used to raise awareness of demand for land across the county during negotiations with landowners, providing evidence that there are opportunities for landowners to lease land for growing in particular areas. This data, when matched with population densities, can be used to calculate how much land *should* be available for a particular settlement according to standards devised by the National Society of Allotments and Leisure Gardens. In this way, community groups can use this research to evidence and strengthen their bids for access to new growing space.
Key Learning Points about Allotments
* Waiting list numbers are not, in themselves, the most robust indicator of actual, proactive demand for land. * While it is the single statutory duty of a parish council to provide allotments, their willingness to get involved in provision can vary greatly: - Some say their lists are not accurate e.g. people have moved away, lost interest and so forth. - Parish clerks have observed that many would-be allotmenteers underestimate the time, energy and skills needed to grow food effectively and that drop out rates can be high. This can be especially true on new sites where many of the plot holders are new to growing and access to skilled advice is lacking. - Some councils are therefore reluctant to rush to extend provision fearing they will be left with the financial and maintenance burden of untended plots. Ways forward for councils: * Many prefer to manage waiting lists by reducing the size of allotment plots by half or thirds when they come up for re-letting. This strategy has the effect of making more, smaller, plots available, which can be useful for new growers who can build their skills and experience on a manageable area, but inevitably works to reduce the total amount of land available to be cultivated by individuals in a particular location. Ways forward for people looking for land: * Waiting for the powers that be to make land available may not lead to quick access to growing space for those on waiting lists. Where parish councils do not take the lead in fulfilling their statutory obligations to provide allotments, and/or create barriers, people on waiting lists will be satisfied more quickly in their search for a plot when they take matters into their own hands and organise together to lobby the council or approach willing landowners directly. * Strong local co-ordination and, in some cases, sustained lobbying, is the key to accessing land. * Get support - The National Society of Allotments and Leisure Gardens and the Federation of City Farms & Community Gardens are recognised as trusted agencies that exist to respond to proactive enquiries.
Case Study: Access to Land Roadshow
Somerset is a vast rural county and with 1.5 staff, engaging with people across all 5 districts has been a challenge. The roadshow was designed therefore to go to where the people are and go beyond generalist marketing. Working district-by-district on a monthby-month basis from January to May 2012 our roadshow enabled us: * To launch very targeted grassroots marketing in one district at a time, including local papers, parish bulletins, radio and more as well as poster campaigns in towns & villages and targeted invitations * The results of the completed allotment survey for that particular district were presented, giving a clear, evidenced picture of demand for land.
* Each evening hosted main speakers Linda Hull and Allan Cavill, from the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardens, as well as a panel of people who had been there and done it - local groups who had started allotments, community gardens and more. This enabled an exchange of information, inspiration and advice. A panel style question & answer session supported this skill sharing. * Information stands with fact sheets & resources complimented the evenings. * Post event press-coverage also meant more opportunities for landowners & seekers to become engaged.
Supporting Access to Land
Negotiating with Landowners
During the 3 years of the project, conversations have been initiated about access to land with a wide range of landowners including councils, housing associations, large public trusts, farmers unions, national park authorities and more. Numerous events have been staged where landowners have attended to find out more about the demand for land and the benefits to them of releasing it for community use. The evolution of these conversations into actual release of land has been influenced by a range of factors including: * The nature, extent and location of demand for land * The onset of the recession and cuts to services * Changes in the political landscape and organisational restructuring in many sectors However, the most important factor continues to be the need for robust demand to be demonstrated and championed local to where land is potentially available. Landowners have wanted to see clear local leadership and evidence of need before making offers of land.
One of the desired outcomes of the Somerset Land & Food Project was to negotiate with land holders for 100 hectares in total of additional land for cultivation in close proximity to 10 market towns to be used for community gardens, market gardens, allotments, smallholdings or Community Supported Agriculture Projects for the use of local food groups by 2012. Having mapped Somerset’s allotment provision, totalling 108 hectares, it was clear that 100 hectares as a target was an extremely ambitious one. However it can be reported that through the life of the Somerset Land & Food Project, 7.5 hectares of new allotment space has been created as well as 2.4 hectares of community gardens. These sites include: * 12 brand new allotments on private land where there was no existing allotment provision * Two new additional allotment sites, one on private land and one on housing association land where there were waiting lists on existing sites * Seven new community gardens on church, town council, school and housing association land in areas with waiting lists *One new council owned statutory site and one new extension to a statutory site to replace one lost to development.
Key Learning Points
* On balance, small private landowners seem more ready to lease land to well organised community groups who proactively approach them. * In urban areas the issue of much land being in options agreements with developers poses another barrier for some land seekers. Taunton Deane Borough Council has developed an Allotments Strategy including policy to require developers to make community growing space available as part of Section 106 agreements and Community Infrastructure Levies on new build housing. * In West Somerset, the ownership of much land by big, private estates can also mitigate against finding suitable land. Knowing who to contact in the hierarchy is useful for taking the next steps. * Potentially available land leased by Housing Associations depends on assessing and stimulating the level of interest of residents, whom they naturally prefer to offer land to first, in preference to other members of the community. Common items included: * Get Set Grow Courses & other specialist training * Fencing, timber, sheds, polytunnels & tools *Compost & soil building materials *Processing equipment “This really wouldn’t have been able to happen without the grant. Just knowing we’re being supported makes so much difference!” - Sarah Laborde, Axbridge Community Allotment Over 1219 beneficiaries (minimum) across 17 different projects in 5 different districts of Somerset
* Many of the new allotments have been established using the “South West Model” devised by Allan Cavill, SW Representative of the National Society of Allotments and Leisure Gardens, who advocates that new sites are most quickly established by independent and autonomous groups, often formed from those on waiting lists, who then carry out their own land search and complete their own agreements with the landowner rather than expecting their parish council to create new “statutory” sites i.e. protected by Allotment Legislation. * The bulk of new sites formed in this way are therefore “private” and “temporary”, which means they must be run in such a way that the land can be returned to the landowner in the same condition as when originally let, following due notice being served.
In the first 18 months of the project, it was observed that land sometimes was not the main determining factor to enable people to get growing. In order to meet community needs better, the Get Growing Support Fund was launched. This one-off fund was designed to support community groups or small social enterprises in Somerset to access the expertise, tools, advice, training & support they need to bring new land into production or to support existing projects to develop and thrive. This enabled 17 groups to apply for tools required by their growing projects, many of which can be shared with other local groups if needed. The Get Growing Support Fund proved very effective in developing relationships with new and existing contacts, in gauging what communities really need and desire and what capital items are most challenging for groups to purchase.
Case Study: Get Growing Support Fund
Sharing Skills for Food Production
One of the keys aims of the Somerset Land & Food Project has been to develop the range of skills to enable more people to access affordable, locally grown and healthy food. Through the life of the project over 1338 people have been engaged in skillsharing. The diverse range of these opportunities has included: * Six conferences that brought together people from across Somerset to not only network but also to learn new skills and gain advice from others, on everything from composting to fruit preservation. * Get Set Grow and Get Set Cook courses are 12 hour packages developed by Somerset Community Food. Jane Sweetman and other trainers have delivered these courses supporting many people to learn new skills. * The Access to Land Roadshow created opportunities for direct knowledge transfer between people and projects working on a grassroots level to access land. * The Incredible Edible Somerset Open Gardens - a weekend of open gardens and workshops across the county supported over 135 people to share skills related to food production. * Learning for Growth - in partnership with The Magdalen Project, an environmental education centre and working farm, near Chard, a series of weekend and short courses were developed called ‘Learning for Growth’. Over 100 individuals have been introduced to smallholding and growing their own food through these events. * Specialist training days have also taken place across Somerset, many determined by groups via the Get Growing Support Fund, including forest gardening, fruit tree pruning, buying land and more.
Skills exchanged: * How to cook: 80+ * How to grow your own food: 392+ * How to harvest & process food: 64+ * How to buy land: 84+ * How to access land: 381+ * Film production & social media: 12 * Therapeutic horticulture: 45 Total number of people learning new skills = 1338
Key Learning Points
* Opportunities are not restricted to courses & events - skills are exchanged continuously and learning from others, for example at allotments or community gardens can be one of the best ways to learn. * Courses need to be accessible. Our funding has meant many free opportunities have been created, meeting needs of low-income families and those without the means to invest in paid courses. Ensuring a sliding scale or bursary places can counter this financial exclusion on charged for courses. * A key role for SLAF has been to collate and promote specialist training already on offer in Somerset and using our networks to advertise these opportunities. * Due to the scale and geography of Somerset, location-based trainers may be better placed to lead activities locally. * Many are inspired by the work of others and seeing real-life projects through site visits is most beneficial. * Putting theory into practice is essential and getting your hands dirty is a must. The time of year courses run also makes a difference. * Re-skilling Somerset will take generations and it is useful to keep this long term perspective. * A Directory of Skills, such as the planned ‘Knowledgebank’ can be difficult to populate, soon out of date and means the creators could be a bottleneck of information. From this learning came Incredible Edible Somerset - a user led, updateable social networking website to enable skill sharing well beyond the life of the Somerset Land & Food Project.
Saturday 11th & Sunday 12th August 2012 saw the staging of the first Incredible Edible Somerset Open Gardens weekend, a countywide event organized as part of National Allotments week, with the aim of raising awareness of Incredible Edible Somerset, as well as creating the opportunity for exchanging skills and increasing networking.
Case Study: Incredible Edible Somerset Open Gardens
* A total of 11 different sites were open to the public at various points over the weekend including home smallholdings, small edible gardens, therapeutic horticulture projects, community orchards, allotment sites, market gardens and community gardens. * Over 135 people participated in nine different practical workshops workshops across the county. * In total at least 170 people visited projects that were open to the public. * Key parts of the weekend’s success included: positive media coverage, attractive leaflets, grassroots participation, workshops that met community needs and social enjoyment. “You have truly made a difference, as people will implement some of the ideas they saw, leading to a lot of food produced as well as the other benefits of permaculture...Seeing all the gardens has been such a boost for future growth!” - Angie Rooke, Pilton Road Community Garden
A key outcome for Somerset Land and Food was the creation of a partnership to progress the aims of the project beyond 2012. While grassroots networks are slowly becoming more visible and connected, progressing strategic level work has been slow in a climate of funding and resource cuts affecting organisations and officers engaged in community development. Scaling back of activities within other organisations reduced their capacity to engage in the project due to loss of key personnel and their contacts in the community. For a county-wide initiative predicated on partnership working, these factors have affected both implementation and exit strategies. Therefore more work is required to develop the partnership which can really progress access to land and growing training in this county. As access to land was a new area of work for Somerset Community Food, public engagement was slow to achieve as a whole new audience needed to be identified and reached. It therefore took time to establish the communications infrastructure, ‘brand’ development and network of appropriate and relevant contacts. The scale and geography of Somerset has also meant that the small staff team of 1 full timer and 1 part timer has had to rely heavily on electronic communications to engage people. We have tried to counter the exclusive aspects of this by touring conferences and public meetings around the county. But in such a rural, sparsely populated area with limited public transport options, even working at the District level can be problematic. Finding the right venue and right time of day to accommodate the widest range of stakeholders has also meant barriers to participation for some. Over 40 events involving over 1200 people with and 422 organisations. Over 900 people regularly receive local food news
Many local food projects are site-specific, for example an allotment or community garden or farm. By contrast, networks are about cross-pollination of ideas, sharing inspiration, news and examples. As in a garden, in bigger systems there are ‘nutrient flows’ with sinks and sources. Some areas are rich in access to land and skills and other areas are less so. Therefore creating an effective network is about supporting the flow between both. Networks can help connect the dots, providing corridors and linkages between fragmented groups and projects. At the same time no ‘one size fits all’ – ways and means differ in rural and urban settings and all are unique to place, effecting methods of engagement and relationship building. Somerset Land and Food, as a county-wide focused access to land project, has attempted to connect isolated projects into a more cohesive whole by: * Developing relationships with community groups and projects, parish, town and district councils, mental health charities, churches, Transition groups, schools, local food producers, distributors and anyone else who supports this agenda. * Mapping projects and people both online and face to face via “showcases” and “soapboxes” whereby groups and individuals can promote their projects. * Launching the social networking site Incredible Edible Somerset which seeks to provide communications infrastructure for these diverse groups. * Ensuring an even geographical spread of venues for events and support to projects. * Publishing a monthly Somerset Local Food Update e-newsletter to strengthen this emerging network
A key element in building a stronger local community food network has been the series of conferences organised by Somerset Community Food. In this large, rural county, these regular events have enabled people to come together and make connections. They have been staged twice a year and have travelled around the county district by district to enable and encourage local people to attend and for more localised networks to develop. Key learning points have included: * Food is the connector - make sure tasty local produce is available & shared as an attractor. * Balance the head with the heart and the hands by offering a mixture of practical, networking and theory-based activities, presentations and workshops. * Host events at growing projects where possible or include site visits so that topics discovered come alive & feel relevant. * Design time for networking - whether its through long breaks or facilitated sessions. “Well organised, friendly, easy to network, great & interesting speakers... I left feeling really skilled and useful from the discussions I’d had and the possible opportunities I’d potentially found. Thank you so much!” – Landowner Jill Strawbridge
Case Study: Local Conferences
Launch event, Great Bow Wharf, Langport, 7th December 2009 attended by 61 people Spring Conference, Genesis Centre, Taunton, 27th April 2010, with over 114 attendees ‘Time2Connect’, Victoria Community Centre, Bridgwater, 16th October 2010 with 56 local people & practical workshops Growing Connections in South Somerset, 28th May 2011 at the Magdalen Project near Chard with 48 people Growing Connections in West Somerset, 10th October 2011 at the Dunster Tithe Barn with over 42 attendees Incredible Edible Somerset Summer Conference, St Dunstans School & Paddington Farm, Glastonbury, 14th July 2012 with over 100 people 8
These recommendations are intended to serve anyone thinking of setting up a similar access to land project either in Somerset or further afield. They also act as a roadmap for where future efforts should be focused to progress access to sufficient land and training in Somerset to build resilience against food poverty, changing climatic conditions and the fragmentation of our communities. While some of the necessary actions can be carried out by small, charitable organisations such as Somerset Community Food (see below for specific actions we will undertake), the movement must broaden and include players at every level.
3. Ensure sufficient land is reserved for community based food production
In 1997, NSALG recommended that there should be 20 full size allotment plots (250 square meters) per 1000 households. More recently, they have updated this to 60 plots per 1000 households to reflect latent demand. In light of the recent announcement that 1500 square miles are required for house building, district councils, as strategic planners and community leaders, must reserve sufficient land for this purpose. Action: All district councils to follow the example of Taunton Deane Borough Council by developing land use policy and strategies that recognise the need for more allotment space but also acknowledge that building houses with insufficient private gardens or other allocated space for growing food in new developments is short sighted and will only exacerbate current provision deficits. Can You Dig It produced by the National Local Government Network reported that in 2007, Britain had 12,710 hectares of vacant brownfield land. 85% of this land is located in urban areas or within 500 metres of a built-up area – precisely where growing spaces are in highest demand.
1. Increase widespread strategic understanding of land and food issues and scale up the means for effective action to be taken
An issue of great concern for the Somerset Land and Food Project has been the lack of strategic allies. The invisibility of players actively concerned about food security and food poverty in general, and access to land issues in particular, is very worrying. Action: Local leaders must catalyse a wide range of influential partners to become engaged in the creation of a clear, strategic and co-operative plan for how Somerset can feed itself in view of bigger picture trends and the shadow of the food footprint of the city of Bristol. (See map on page 4)
2. Invest in high quality low cost skills training and prioritise young people, low income families, job seekers and others in food poverty
Most of our farmers are at retirement age and only 3% are under 35. At the same time we face both a skills crisis and a tremendous opportunity. Investment should be prioritised to support young people, low income families and the un/under-employed to gain the skills and experiences they need to help feed their dependents and wider communities. Learning opportunities need to be accessible both geographically and financially. Action: Funders, policy makers and agencies in Somerset with interests in public health, mental health and well being, skills for life, employment training, community and adult education and sustainable development champions will reap multiple economic, job creation and therapeutic benefits by responding proactively and co-operatively to the task of training and skills development in the area of growing food.
Action: Community food networks to lobby for the use of surplus, vacant and derelict Local Authority and other publicly owned land for both commercial and community based food production.
4. Encourage landowners to release more land for community growing
With more than 1100 Somerset people on waiting lists for a plot to grow food on, there are clearly opportunities for more landowners to release land. With 10 hectares of land being brought into cultivation during the last 3 years, there is much knowledge to transfer. Action: Progressive landowners to extol the social and commercial benefits to their peers of releasing land for community food production. Case studies need to be widely disseminated along with clear guidelines including opportunities for landowners to meet and share success stories with a wider audience.
Creating a Lasting Legacy
Like gardeners who prepare the soil, the Somerset Land and Food project has created rich conditions for growth for the community food networks in Somerset. Three growing seasons have passed and each one has brought new yields, challenges and diverse harvests of learning. In April 2012 Somerset Community Food won 12 months further funding from the Big Lottery’s Local Food Programme until October 2013 to sustain the impact of the project and support the changes necessary to create a tangible legacy. Building on the groundwork laid with staff time and resources over the last 3 years, “Incredible Edible Somerset” is the project’s exit strategy. Four key aims are in place for 2013:
Aim 3 - Develop comprehensive training materials
Somerset Community Food will: * Adapt and diversify current training models to better meet the needs of our communities in a more bespoke way e.g. develop training packages for mental health service users, young people, non english speakers, time-poor families, as well as formore experienced growers and projects who are seeking more advanced training on food processing and community led trading. * Develop resources to share research, case studies and methods for accessing land with diverse audiences such as councils, health authorities, schools, mental health charities and housing associations. One aspect of this is creating a series of short films.
Aim 1 - Enable the emerging network to become established & independent, visible & connected
Incredible Edible Somerset is a new social networking site with huge potential to stimulate capacity building and knowledge, resource and skill sharing. A space for user-led content to be created, groups can raise their profiles, advertise their events and individuals can offer and search for skills.
Aim 4 - Explore the development of a training enterprise as our exit strategy
Somerset Community Food will seek to increase access to food growing and related training by: * Conducting market research and training needs analysis * Creating a forward planning group from existing and new stakeholders * Accessing social enterprise training * Exploring the feasibility for a site based training centre
Designing for the Future
We live in challenging times. Every month there are 6 million new mouths to feed on the planet. Commentators at every level are wondering how we can secure food supplies for our burgeoning global population without further destruction of our environment, pollution of our water supplies, compromising of our health and disastrous impacts on the most vulnerable peoples in other parts of the world, a billion of whom go to bed hungry every night. This reality will only be sharpened by the damaging effects of an unpredictably changing climate, the volatility of energy and other agricultural input prices and ongoing austerity measures. Debates rage about the best ways to transform our food system but, simply put, each one of us can make a difference by learning how to grow some part of our own food. But to do this we will need: * Access to land. Not everyone has the privilege of their own garden and therefore we must make sure that sufficient land is reserved and leased for community based food production. * To enable massive re-skilling. We must develop effective means to bridge the gap created by a missing generation of skilled growers by rapidly learning and transferring knowledge about how to grow food. * In addition we must choose to support our local producers to stay in business - the very business of feeding us! Incredible Edible Somerset is emerging as a network of ordinary people keen to learn and share their skills, knowledge and experience. Join us!
Somerset Community Food will scale up communication and knowledge transfer infrastructure, by recruiting members to the social networking website, publishing the Somerset Local Food Update, creating an access to land handbook and supporting audio video material.
Aim 2 - Maximise grassroots participation & knowledge transfer within communities
There is a missing generation of skilled growers. Therefore a network of location based mentors is required to broaden capacity for face to face work and to negotiate the geography of Somerset. Somerset Community Food will work with Garden Organic to train a team of skilled local people to act as Master Gardeners in each district of Somerset where there is known demand and need. A mobile exhibition will also be developed to tour libraries, pubs and village halls to promote local growing opportunities and to increase public participation.
Somerset Community Food 33a High Street Glastonbury, Somerset BA6 9HT Tel : 0300 365 0360 Email: email@example.com www.somersetcommunityfood.org.uk www.incredible-edible-somerset.ning.com Registered charity number: 1107311. Limited company registration number: 4290175
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