During Food Justice Fortnight, run by our friends at Feeding Bristol, we held an evening of food and conversation based around soil, access to soil/land for growing and social justice.
At EdibleBristol we believe that everyone should have the right to grow some of their own food if they wish to, and we know also that those most at risk of food inequality are those who feel lest able to access that. Our conversation began with our founder, Sara, talking about horticulture and agriculture, and how access to land for anyone was a struggle despite land being all around us. Food justice comes from grassroots activism that begins on the land and we have seen over and again how communities in deep need will take what land they need to grow food when people are hungry. Cuba, Detroit, and others all grew themselves out of hunger using lost, unloved and unused land. Not asking for permission but asking for foregiveness if needed!
As a wealthy city Bristol’s food inequality figures are startling. 1 in 20 Bristolians are at risk every day and that become 1 in 7 in the disabled community. Whilst no one should be expected to become self sufficient overnight, local communities can support each other where land is available. And support both climate and biodiversity crises at the same time.
There were lots of thoughts, but the general take away points seemed to us to be……
Access to allotments isn’t accessible and we need more.
We need a pesticide free future for our city.
That there is a new policy/planning commitment that developments of over 60 homes should have allotment space allocated within them, and that perhaps this ought to look like community outdoor space rather than individual plots.
That sadly allotments rarely foster a sense of community although there are exceptions.
These are all things we will begin wider conversations around!
Chatting about food and soil
Food metres rather than miles-all from the garden at Cultivation Place
Flowers from the garden
And we’ll keep you informed here!! In the meantime some photos of the evening……
Food Justice is a movement that began in the US, and is fundamental to the work of Edible Bristol. Food Justice is the creation of a food system that gives everyone equal access to good, affordable, culturally appropriate food, and recognises that that food must be produced sustainably, with land workers being given fair pay for their work.
Food justice and food sovereignty go hand in hand.
‘We advocate for government policy and legislation to be grounded in a fundamental Right to Food, and to be guided by the six principles of food sovereignty: that food is produced for people, not profit; that food systems operate on a local and regional scale where possible; that control is centred in the hands of local communities; that food producers, farmers and growers are valued; that land-based skills and knowledge are nurtured and developed; and that food production works with nature and not against it. ‘(Landworkers Alliance)
Feeding Bristol are again leading on Food Justice Fortnight and there are lots of events taking place which you will find here.
This includes an opportunity to come along and share a meal, and a tour of our Cultivation Place in Speedwell, and join in with a discussion on the importance of soil for food justice. You can book your ticket here
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.
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!
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.
A slightly dry title but as we move into 2021, we are looking back to the previous year and it’s challenges to ensure we can foresee any challenges to come.
2020 began, as years generally do, with positive plans, many of which had to be cancelled or postponed due to Covid. However, as the year continued we found ways to ensure the gardens continued where safe and our core team of community gardeners at least, had opportunity to continue to grow food for Bristol’s communities. Whilst during the first lockdown it was not possible to get out into the city centre spaces, the gardens at Avonmouth and Speedwell have thrived and enabled us to support the food aid efforts across the city with fresh produce, grown by our core team as they learnt about food growing.
At Avonmouth the aim was to grow enough crop that we were able to support the efforts at Avonmouth Community Centre, who were busy ensuring people who were vulnerable had food available to them. Our produce went into the shopping bags of the people who would usually access our produce through lunch clubs at the community centre. From the beginning of lockdown right up until mid December a weekly harvest helped to support this community, whilst also supporting our team to learn lots about food growing with nature, in the space on Platform 2 of the station at Avonmouth. This work, supported by Severnside Community Rail Partnership, will continue into 2021 and we cannot wait to be able to open up volunteering opportunities to more of the Avonmouth Community once it is safe to do so. This year, when possible, we will focus on Wellbeing Wednesdays in the garden, welcoming people to garden, to sit, and to enjoy being outside in the space.
At the Speedwell site, where we had hoped to run courses and workshops starting in 2020, we moved our focus to growing as much food as was possible in order to support the food aid effort going on to ensure fresh food to all. Our core team and facilitator grew quantities of food we knew would be well received across the city, including potatoes, kales and cabbages, salads, pumpkins and squash, onions, garlic, shallots and chillies. We were thrilled to be donated plants from the nursery at Blaise that enabled us to grow more crops and we look forward to working with them in the future and would like to thank the council’s officers and Deputy Mayor Asha Craig for delivering them on what must have been one of the warmest days of the year!
Crops from Speedwell were sent to Bristol Food Union to support care leavers, the Aidbox Community and to Co-exist Community Kitchen, and all were used to directly feed people struggling to access affordable, healthy food. All these crops were gifts from us to the communities, grown by people learning more about food growing, food sovereignty and edible landscapes.
We also used our social media channels to support more people to grow food successfully across the city, with our founder sharing skills around growing crops, composting, growing without a garden and plenty more! She even worked out how to make a compost bin from a food waste bin and showed that not only was it possible, but it was also successful. We will continue with this in the months to come. If you don’t follow our social media we are on all the usual channels with our skill sharing on Instagram at @EdibleBristol.
However, 2020 was not only about Covid, but also about an awakening of the social conscience of many, and the realisation that many of our systems are built on white supremacy and colonialism. We are super conscious that farming is one of the least diverse occupations in the UK and that land access is a serious issue for anyone wanting to become a new entrant farmer, or wanting to set up community growing spaces. And with that we realised that by many across the city we had been firmly put into the community gardening sphere, when in fact Edible Bristol was always around creating local food economies, starting with community growing of course, but leading to empowered and diverse communities sharing their food cultures and finding their own solutions to the global issues of climate, biodiversity and inequality. This year to come will see us firmly represent ourselves within the food justice movement, acknowledging that we need to share more about our efforts here and why it is so important for us and for Bristol.
Fortunately once the first lockdown ended we were able to get back to some of the city centre gardens so we focussed our time on the gardens at Millennium Square, the Bearpit and Castle Park. Our team have completely reinvigorated the gardens in Millennium Square, filling them with crops that will see us through the winter and into spring when we will of course continue to grow seasonally appropriate crops that are available to anyone who might need them. Our plans include the crops we use every day along with culturally appropriate food stuffs that we know some of our communities struggle to access. As soon as we can open up drop in opportunities for people to get involved we will.
The Bearpit is always a challenging space as it’s large and has had several but we are working on a plan and there will be exciting news soon which we will leave to one side for a post of it’s own! However, we can confirm that the Castle Park garden was tidied and planted with onion, shallots and garlic just prior to the second lockdown, and those crops will be poking though as we type…..
So as we move into 2021 out primary focus is on creating more opportunities for people to volunteer, to work across diverse communities to work to get as much culturally appropriate food as possible grown across the city and to support new community gardens across the city to not just begin, but to thrive. Everyone would have the opportunity to understand where their food comes from, and to engage with their own farm to fork journey, and whatever that looks like, from windowsill to allotment or community garden, our true want is to support that and ensure the necessary skills are shared.
There will, however, be one change. Since we began in 2014 funding has been more and more challenging and so we are taking control by offering courses and workshops at the Speedwell site, beginning with a 6 week, How To Grow course, focusing on the basics of how to run and manage a growing space. There will be lots of other courses available too, as well as practical workshops and one off weekend opportunities. We will ensure that everyone can access these opportunities by offering free spaces to those who would otherwise not be able to join us, and we will be sharing more about this in the weeks to come. We are also beginning a cut flower club which people will be able to sign up for to get a bouquet of flowers each week from April to October which again we will be able to tell you more about shortly.
All in all we are excited about the year to come and hope to see many of you soon, either at a garden, a course or an event. In the meantime please stay safe.
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.
As we head into 2020 we thought it might be good to look back at our achievements in 2019 and look at plans coming in 2020. In many ways 2019 was a difficult year so before we go onto achievements we’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone across the city who helped and supported us through last year.
Last year saw our work with Severnside Community Rail Partnership increase as we supported the creation of the Secret Garden at Avonmouth station, working with community payback groups and corporate volunteers. The garden, under the supervision of our facilitator Luke, has gone from strength to strength, and is supporting lunch clubs at Avonmouth Community Centre with vegetables. This year will see us continue to work with the local community to grow more food and the garden continue to support outdoor learning and experiences in the Avonmouth area.
The work across the Urban Food Trail continued and the gardens are now becoming well established. The trees in Millennium Square saw their first good crop of fruit and many of the perennial plants really began to crop well. As we move forwards the Millennium Square gardens will be seeing a redesign over the next months, but we will ensure they remain as productive as possible.
Work in the Bearpit was put on hold for most of last year as we felt it was an unsafe space for our volunteers but once Bristol City Council had cleaned the space and it became safer we spent a few work parties down there, beginning a big tidy up and bringing the garden back to where it ought to be. Again as we step into 2020 we will be continuing this work, bringing food and nature to the city centre and working to create an urban harvest that is available to the whole city.
Another project we were thrilled to be a part of was the city centre’s Business Improvement District’s Greener Bristol campaign, which saw 36 individual raised beds installed a cross the city, all growing fresh herbs, fruit, salads and vegetables for people to help themselves to. This has been a fantastically successful project and we look forward to working on the beds as the year continues. We will be adding both nature friendly plants that support pollinators in the city and more vegetables and edible flowers to the beds over the coming months and invite everyone to help themselves to the crops.
We also engaged with our first team of core volunteers who are all committed to joining us at least once per month and to whom we offer some more structured learning about all things food growing and Incredible. We will be taking in new core volunteers every six months or so, with the next team being advertised for later in January and it has been fantastic to meet and work with such a great bunch of people and support them to learn more.
Finally this year will be the year we open our Learning Zone at Speedwell Allotments, where we will offer courses and workshops as we were doing previously. We have achieved a massive amount of progress at the site, and will continue to do so in the first few months of 2020, and we are excited to officially open the site and begin to support more people to grow in spaces across the city, and grow well and successfully!!
So as we move into 2020, Happy New Year to you all and here’s to a great year of growing both food and community!!
Recently we worked with Bristol Waste on their Waste Nothing campaign, supporting the families taking part in the Waste Nothing campaign to learn some gardening and food growing skills. The aim of the campaign is to cut these families waste collections , not just of waste going to landfill but also cut down the amount going to recycling, especially of single use plastics. You can learn more about the campaign here.
The aim of our afternoon with the families was to introduce them to some growing techniques and talk about what sustainable gardening looks like. Most of the families have some experience of growing so we chatted about lots of things that we think might be interesting to everyone. We are super aware that whilst we all assume gardening is green, it really can be absolutely the opposite and we wanted to work through that with the families so they were confident moving forwards.
We began by talking about plastics and as we recently wrote a blog about this, we won’t repeat ourselves but we will just reiterate that Bristol Waste are not recycling any plant pots so the best thing to do is recycle them yourself by growing plants in them, or giving them away to community gardens, groups or schools where you know they will get used. Our blog about plastic use is here
We also spoke about compost. All the families have been given wormeries as part of the campaign but we would always suggest a compost heap of some type as wormeries will provide a very limited amount of compost. There are lots of compost bins available to buy, from the plastic dalek type to some very plush numbers that ensure your heap heats up fast, producing compost faster than a standard heap. You can also make your own with pallets and soon we will be, we hope, supporting better composting through workshops and a project we are working on with some UWE students who are looking at ways to heat your heap that are both sustainable and affordable. In the mean time we will shortly be putting together a blog on how to get the best from your heap as we believe it’s a vital part of creating a circular system in the garden. However, most people struggle to make enough compost and have to purchase some, whether it’s for seed sowing, containers or as a soil conditioner. We would urge everyone to ensure the compost they are using is peat free, and therefore not taking peat out of our precious peatfields that are the UK’s equivalent to rain forests in that they capture carbon and support rare and endangered flora and fauna. We use either SylvaGrow or Dalefoot Compost.
We are aware that some people are keen to garden in line with vegan principles and in that case there is a product called Fertile Fibre which is certified as a vegan product
Away from plastic we spoke about buying plants. Many large garden centre groups buy plants in from abroad, despite there being a healthy local supply of plants to access. When these plants come in there is no knowing what they might have been sprayed with, whether they could be harmful to bees and other pollinators or even if they will survive in our climate. Shortly we will put together a list of nurseries and local garden centres that we support at Incredible Edible Bristol. And then of course there is the subject of seeds. The global seed market is run by 3/4 enormous organisations, interested only in profit and selling their product. In the last few years there has been an emergence of local, UK based. open pollinated seed growers and we would always suggest you buy from them first and support an industry that is working on creating seed sovereignty for the UK. For more information about seeds and seed sovereignty take a look at the Gaia Foundation, who are leading the work being done.
Of course saving our own seeds is also a vital part of creating circular economies within our gardens, and is something we can all do. There is loads of info about seed saving at the Real Seeds website.
For Incredible Edible Bristol a sustainable future where we can all share the skills we need to learn more about growing food, creating habitats for nature and supporting the creation of more edible landscapes is key to what we do. If you’d like any help or support to create a garden in a lost or unloved space in your community, where we can support you to create a healthier community, just get in touch!!