Why we’re supporting Bristol Local Food Fund. (And you should too)

Across Bristol there are some extraordinary organisations doing extraordinary work but all of them, of us, struggle with the same thing and that’s bringing in enough cash to continue. About 1 in 9 bids are successful, and when you’re a tiny organisation working in your community fundraising often feels like it’s impossible.

Bristol Local Food Fund wants to create a more accessible funding field. By creating an opportunity for local, grassroots organisations to bid from the pot they are making, it will mean that money goes straight to the grassroots and immediately support food Justin the city. They’re planning on a citizen led panel to make decisions, they’re unashamedly making sure this money will only be available to the grassroots and they’re determined to support communities who are finding their own solutions!! They are creating a change in the funding system, and ensuring that change happens when it’s needed.

Of course we are also aware that life is tough right now. But here’s the thing. A couple of quid makes all the difference but also, shares on social media are really useful. In fact one share, retweet or regram is said to generate around £15 in funds.

So please can you help? Isn’t it time funding went straight into the organisations making change in the ground?

Our chard which went to a fundraising event last week with the Mazi Project

We Need To Talk About The Bearpit

In March of this year, just as we had received funding to continue our work in the Bearpit, (James Barton roundabout) we were asked by the head of green and blue places in the city, to cease working on the garden as they had come up with a plan that was all about creating a pollinator rich garden where the garden we had worked on since 2016 was.

Now, for sure the garden was, at that point, far from perfect. The ravages of 2017 when the space was inaccessible, mixed with a lack of funding for the garden and then Covid on top of that, when all volunteering in public spaces was stopped, rightly, but the Bristol Parks team, meant that there was a lot of work to do in the space, but having procured funding from an outside source, which would have meant a team in the garden for a day a week, we were excited to bring the garden back to a place where food and pollinator rich planting was abundant.

Unfortunately what seems to have happened since is absolutely nothing. The plants are all overgrown, it’s covered in litter and filth, and it feels immensely disrespectful that a space that had been worked on entirely voluntarily, and which over the years had only cost Bristol Council £7,500 in funding in the first year, has been left to rack and ruin.

What also is of concern is that there was no consultation from the council on this decision, whereas before our garden was designed and planted we had spent days engaging with people in the Bearpit and those who used it regularly. Every single person we spoke to wanted to see nature and food as a part of the garden, which is why the garden was designed as a food forest.

We are really both sad and angry that this has happened. We have sat back and said nothing as we expected the council teams to respect the work that had been done and continue it in some way. But instead we see hugely expensive containers and baskets full of flowers that might be bright but which speak nothing to the climate or biodiversity crisis we have acknowledged.

As COP26 is happening we would like to call on the council to recognise the failure of this space, and a need to do better in public spaces, and especially in spaces that they have removed from community organisations with no consultation at all. The city centre ought to be a place of richness and abundance in spaces where planting takes place, and instead off which looks sad and neglected. From the Bearpit to the area around the Cenotaph and the fountains, the planting is unimaginative and where there could be rain gardens, vertical planting and food, there is nothing more interesting than you might see in a supermarket car park. We have acknowledged climate and biodiversity crises, and yet the city is not seeming to respond.

We would like to add that this is nothing against Bristol Parks department who’s support we have always been grateful for.

But this is a call to return the Bearpit to us, and fund us to do the work to recreate a garden that had international acclaim, brought in visitors from far and wide, and added to the culture in the city centre. And as a reminder here is what it looked like in it’s hey day……

The Incredible Flower Farm is open for new subscribers for 2022

In 2021 we opened the Incredible Flower Farm, growing flowers for folks who subscribed and who collected a beautiful bouquet twice a month from May to October. Throughout the year we have seen tulips, ranunculus, roses, snapdragons, sunflowers, dahlias and much more head into people’s homes, and are so pleased to see the joy on subscribers faces as the season progressed and new blooms arrived.

For 2022 we are able to offer a few more subscriber places, and we have decided to announce this now, a good few months before they will be available, so that people have an opportunity to buy a subscription for a loved one for Christmas. After all, what better way to say happy Christmas than to give someone a seasonal bouquet twice a month?

As with 2021 subscribers will be able to collect their bouquet from the flower farm itself every other Saturday from May to October. If you subscribe for a gift we will send you a voucher to give to the recipient and we will engage with them directly once the season has begun! If you’d like to find out prices and subscribe or know more please do email sara@ediblebristol.org.uk

Flowers from the Incredible Flower Farm

Winter Talks At Edible Bristol

Pumpkins at Cultivation Place

Whilst the weather is cold and the evenings dark, we thought it would be a good idea to create a series of online talks. All the gardeners and food growers who are joining us are people who are gardeners but are also climate, soil and social activists, who’s aim is to, in some way, support both climate and biodiversity crises through their growing practices. We will be adding to this list throughout the season and if there’s anyone in particular you’d like to hear do get in touch and we will see what we can arrange.

All funds raised will be ploughed back into our community work.

We begin on 4th November with Stephanie Hafferty talking about no dig gardening in her new garden. https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/no-dig-gardening-and-homesteading-with-stephanie-hafferty-tickets-189754630207

On 9th December we have botanist and ecologist Becky Searle talking about soil health. https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/soil-the-life-beneath-our-feet-with-becky-searle-sow-much-more-tickets-195005716347

On 21st January we have Adam Jones talking about his no dig journey https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/adam-jones-from-digging-to-no-digging-my-story-through-gardening-tickets-195024943857

And more will be announced as they are confirmed! Don’t miss out-the tickets are selling like hot cakes!!

Welcome To Cultivation Place!

Pumpkins at Cultivation Place

Over the last couple of years we have been creating a space for learning at Speedwell Allotments. Cultivation Place will be home, in 2022, to a whole host of events that will support individuals and communities to grow more food, more pollinator friendly planting and also to look at gardening as a response to both climate and biodiversity crises. All our workshops and courses will be run by people who are experts in their fields, with our primary tutor being our founder, Sara Venn.

We also hope to run some events where we can bring people together for discussions that will create real change across the city and bring together networks to offer support and opportunity to all involved in community gardening across the city.

We will release the courses for next year in January, but in the meantime we will be running our How To Grow course one last time for 2021, beginning on October 2nd-the details are in the link below!

And watch out for our autumn/winter talks which will begin soon.

Community Garden Week-If You Eat You’re In!

This week is Community Garden Week which obviously is close to our hearts. Gardens supported and run by communities, whether for food, for pollinators or to improve an area are really vital for neighbourhoods to feel that they are empowered to find their solutions to the global issues of the day.

Community gardening is often seen as a privileged pastime and one that is not always available to all, and this year we hope to begin to break down and truly understand the barriers to communities from getting involved. We have a new community consultant and he will be working in areas of the city to talk to local people about their food cultures, what they need to see to get involved and how involvement doesn’t just mean gardening.

At Incredible Edible Bristol it’s important to us that the gardens we support become community assets, not just allotments in pubic spaces. Places that are sustainable, that support rather than harm in the way they are looked after and maintained and truly healthy spaces. Somewhere to sit, to drink tea, to smell the scented plants, read a book, relax even if you are in the centre of the city. A place to connect with other people, other communities and other food cultures. A place to learn and a place to understand. And of course somewhere to pick a few things for your tea!!

Our motto, If You Eat You’re In sounds flippant but in reality it’s absolutely what we are aiming for; a city rich in food growing and food growing skills, where young people can find the jobs they desperately need by good use of public land, access to skills and markets and where locally grown food is available to all, and supports the rich food cultures we see across the city. A city where food is abundant and no one goes hungry.For some this might sound like a privileged pipe dream but we are determined to make it happen. If you’d like to join us, or have an idea for your neighbourhood, or for a piece of land close to your home, why not get in touch? We would love to hear from you.

Community Engagement Opportunity with EdibleBristol

We are beginning a project that will include us reinvigorating the Bearpit Garden and have secured funds for a short-term project to look at inclusion in the garden and barriers to inclusion. The job description is below along with details of how to apply. We look forward to hearing from you!

Three Sisters

At Incredible Edible Bristol over the last few weeks we have been fairly quiet as the world responded to and began to wake up to the systemic racism upon which much of our lives and society is based. As an organisation we have always and will continue to be, inclusive. We’ve often joked about our message being “if you eat you’re in,” but behind that sentence is a serious message. We all eat. We are all connected by food, and food must be accessible, healthy and grown in harmony with nature. There shouldn’t be trends in food, especially if they remove accessibility to that food for socio-economic reasons, and we should all celebrate the food cultures we have across our city.

With that in mind we are going to acknowledge every time we use a growing method that comes from an indigenous people, and this must start with using the 3 sisters method for growing corn, beans and squash. We are using this method st our Learning Zone in Speedwell and also at the Secret Garden in Avonmouth. This method comes from indigenous American culture. The sweetcorn supports the beans with the squash as an undercrop, keeping weeds at bay and keeping moisture in the soil by covering it with the large leaves it’s known for. The beans also support soil health by returning nitrogen to the soil through modules in its roots, and do not only do the plants support each other physically above the soil, they also support each other below the soil.

If you’d like to know more about Native American agriculture we’d strongly recommend “Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden,” written by Gilbert L Wilson, and first published in 1917.

We’ll keep you up to date on how this bed is growing across our social media channels and if it works well we’ll replicate it in Millennium Square next year, when we hope life will feel slightly more normal again.

Core team member Nick planting into the three sisters bed.

Supporting kindness

We are living in unprecedented times and as such, and with little leadership from government, we are finding ourselves tasked not just with the safety of ourselves, but also our community gardeners and those with whom we work. Because our number 1 priority is and always will be our incredible community of gardeners, we have decided that for the next few weeks, and by that we hope we mean weeks and not months, that we are cancelling all work parties except those at the Incredible Learning Zone and at the gardens in Millennium Square, where we feel we are more in control of the whole environment and can support social distancing where we can’t in other gardens.

This will mean that in the next weeks these spaces will get more than their fair share of time and we will be able to return to other gardens once we feel it wise and safe to do so.

In the meantime we would like to remind everyone that all produce in the Edible Bristol gardens is there and available to everyone in the city, for free, so please do help yourselves as crops become available. We will update Facebook and Twitter once we know crops are ready to be harvested and we will concentrate on getting Millennium Square filled with produce as quickly as we can so that there is fresh produce available to all asap.

In the meantime we hope everyone will stay safe. If you’re a core team member the WhatsApp group will be buzzing and we’ll keep you up to date daily.

Response to the Declaration Of An Ecological Emergency in Bristol

Firstly we applaud the bravery of this declaration. It’s never going to be the right time, the appropriate time, to call an emergency, and there will always be what can be seen as hypocrisies, but the declaration itself shows a will for change and an understanding that that change is vital and needs to happen today.

Over the 6 years that Incredible Edible Bristol has been working, across the 50 sites we have supported there has always been conversation around growing food with nature and providing food for pollinators, birds and other creatures who are an important part of the city’s ecosystem. Sometimes this looks like leaving certain weeds in place, knowing that they are important for a certain individual at that point in the year, sometimes it’s about leaving crops to flower and go to seed, and sometimes this looks like using ornamental plants and herbs as important parts of the planting scheme and acknowledging that they are as important as the crops we are growing.

Planting fruit trees which flower over a long period, utilising perennial crops that offer food and habitat, creating habitats within the gardens and having an ongoing conversation around the importance of looking after wildlife have always been key to our work, along with sharing the skills so that individuals and communities can create their own spaces for food and wildlife.

However, it also means looking at how we grow and ensuring that we are not harming nature in order to create these spaces. Ensuring all our spaces are peat free and pesticide free is a vital part of what we do, and we would call on gardeners and growers across the city to go peat free and stop any pesticide use. We would also call for all organisations that manage land to do the same, to utilise biological controls where there is a need, but also to concentrate on creating and supporting ecosystems that support themselves, as we do. After all, once aphids appear so will the ladybirds and other natural predators!

We also think it’s an important point to say that whilst the ecological and climate emergencies are very similar they are also different and whilst there appears to be an emphasis on carbon, and planting trees, these emergencies are far more complex than just that. Of course we need to address carbon and carbon capture but we also need to create safe spaces for wildlife that are pesticide free and understand that as humans we have created these crises and it is up to us to make reparations for wildlife. Bringing ecology and good horticultural practice together to achieve this is vital.

We look forward to working towards a future where all of Bristol’s populations are healthy and thriving and to supporting these changes in the city.