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.
The Incredible Edible Bristol Team x