Pioneer Farm: Communigrow, UK
Communigrow is a social enterprise working in Kent, to create a community growing project for the benefit of young people and families interested in growing their own produce affordably and sustainably. There is one line that sums up the idea, "We are never going to be able to afford local, organic, sustainably raised food without doing it for ourselves" Inspired by the ever increasing interest in good local food with a desire to exhibit best community engagement it is essential to promote shared knowledge, experiences and resources to be viable. We aim big by networking skills and resources and work small to each locality between ‘Patchwork’ sites. Networking sets out to maximise returns for a site in isolation. Returns being assessed and valued on social inclusion through engagement, sustainable use of our limited resources, conservation and exchange value for all our labour and production. This network may provide what an individual site needs as and when it may be needed. Currently we cultivate the acre site at East Malling, Kent with the aim to bring a further 2 acres up to market garden standard this season. Further sites may be added where possible, with over 40 acres of disused land and many more of underused parks and gardens in one London borough alone. The scope is simply enormous. Communigrow started in 2011 with the support of a well renowned research centre in Kent. A social enterprise working to create a community growing project for the benefit of young people and families interested in growing their own produce affordably and sustainably. We are always looking to improve our services and the work we do and so find the natural progression to a viable Community Supported Agriculture project essential to the demands of a large market garden of over one hectare with added diversity of craft and associated produce. We work with schools and community groups to enable individuals of any age or background to participate in unique and innovative, land-based, experiences. The community is very much part of the Communigrow, ‘Joining Hands’ team. After membership and initial introduction at a team meeting an induction allows all of our volunteers to develop with our organisation and learn by being part of the on-going projects on offer. There are free courses and training opportunities for all of our volunteers, as well as staff, ranging from health and safety training to CV writing and Health and Social Care Certificates and diplomas. By joining our you are sharing your talents and abilities as well as learning from experienced professionals and enhancing your future career opportunities. Our aim is sustainability and affordability for all. Edible community landscapes in our urban environment incorporating many of the principals of Bill Mollison and Permaculture with the work of designers such as Mike Feingold with his no dig forest gardening, Les Moore with his ‘Local Exchange Trading System’ along with many others. Inspired by work with local growing projects in, and around, South and East London and years of promoting healthy eating, quality, non-intensive produce and a desire to reduce waste through an improved use of resources. Establishing new Community Supported Agriculture projects (CSA) is vital to the longer term viability of each site and the network as a whole. We aim to produce quality vegetables, fruit, nursery plants and grafted trees using sustainable methods only along with unusual and hard to source ethnic foods for the communities involved as well as staples. We would also expand into establishing a colony of bee hives with associated honey and products for sale along with animals for grazing, wool and eggs as permitted and practical to the location. Building on the experience of Joining Hands to continue and expand the community function beyond food with Art and crafts. On-site facilities which include basket making, spinning, weaving and a host of food associated crafts, jams, chutney etc with further expanded growing for arts and crafts, including dried flowers, herbs and oils. Conservation is crucial to all. Membership open to the local community and from further afield with a rolling programme of workdays to enable individuals and groups to become involved in as many aspects of growing as possible. Surplus would be sold direct to the broader community and wholesale in partnership through established food access initiatives in Hackney, Greenwich and Newham. They would take all surplus vegetables we could produce and pay a fair price. Methods of production: Permaculture design with 'Edible, no dig' methods incorporated. No pesticides or herbicides during cultivations and although we cannot be certified as 'Organic' due to historical considerations of individual sites all growing is organic in method and includes some Biodynamic principals. What the farm can offer: Items available by routine delivery round at cost or stalls (where available) to local London boroughs of Hackney, Greenwich, Lewisham, Bexley and certain areas of Kent include seasonal Fresh vegetables, fruit herbs and salads. Items as available shipped direct on standard overseas mail include Honey and associated products, essential oils and bathroom products.