Men in Sheds, Community Growing, Beechcroft Community allotment

A busy old day today as we roll into the thick of autumn, first port of call this morning was the UCAN centre for water for brews and to collect some strawberry trailers from the centres back yard, then back down to the Hub for the Men in Sheds and community growing session.

The Lads of the Shed are really excited today as they have a new shipping container which was donated to them by another project free of charge, so they spent today’s session building some shelving inside the container and straightening the container up on the blocks it is mounted on.

Whilst the lads worked away with their new Shed I created a new Strawberry bed using the trailers I had harvested from the UCAN centre, then I planted on two fruit bushes into a larger double bed and continued uprooting this years spent plants being careful to leave them inside the beds from where they were pulled to act as a deterrent for estate cats wishing to use the beds as a convenience.

After the Hub session was over Landrover Dave gave me a lift over to Beechcroft community allotment site where I did a double session clearing, weeding and hoeing two large raised beds. Once the beds they cleared of roots and weeds they were planted with  three different varieties of soft neck garlic. I left the site just after six and walked the mile and half home witnessing a breath taking fiery golden autumn sunset as whilst blankets of red and brown autumn leaves crunched underfoot, a great day!


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Men in Sheds and Community Gardening @ Breightmet Hub

A cool start to today with the blanket of autumn slowly coming out of the seasonal cupboard to cover us all and put the garden to bed until spring. As usual my first job of the day was to make sure that the Men in Sheds had brewing tackle and water ect before their session began.

There is still a high level of keenness from the Men, most of whom turn up around half an hour before the session is due to start and today was no exception to this rule, this is so good to see and is largely down to the skills and dedication of Men in Sheds Tutor Landrover Dave who has created a laid back and friendly learning environment for the Men.

The Men in Sheds lads moved over a ton of chippings and barrowed it around the raised beds, they also continued clearing and tidying the site in preparation for the arrival of a new shipping container which is being delivered tomorrow.

In terms of my own work I planted around seventy cloves of French garlic which will grow over the winter, giving us a crop in july of 2017.  We also cropped some produce from the site, some of which is going to the storehouse pantry where it will be part of the food access scheme that is run by them. some went up to New Lane UCAN centre where it will give to people who struggling as part of the deliberate ongoing manufactured austerity Policies that are pushing millions into poverty.


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Men in Sheds and Community Growing @ The Hub 28th Sept

A damp start to the morning, autumn is setting in, the plants on the Hub site are beginning to look a little worse for ware, the temperature has dropped, and so we continue our Men in Sheds sessions into another season.

Today the lads are filled with enthusiasm as they have recently found out that they can have another shipping container on the site, giving them a much needed place to have brews and eat their lunch, and seek shelter from all sorts of coming winter weather. The lads have made great use of the the current container where both materials are stored and brews made.

so for today’s session they were busy clearing the area where the new container will sit. my work today on the gardening side of the project consisted of barrying soil to and fro from the UCAN centre and filling raised beds with a mixture of donated turf turned upside down and stacked at the bottom of the beds, followed by a layer of shredded documents, then compost on top,.

today I managed to add a further four raised beds filled to the brim ready to receive their overwintering as part of next weeks session


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The struggle for Community Food

For the best part of a decade we have been struggling to try and get people to grow foods in their gardens and yards, and in this time this objective has been partially achieved in that some the people who have taken up growing their own have stuck to it and further expanded on their efforts and are likely to do so for years to come because they have seen the economic viability and the health benefits of both growing and eating their own fruit and vegetables.

Community food

Other successes we have had is making available freshly grown organic produce to families who could simply not afford to replace their fruit and veg intake with organically grown. We have achieved this either growing crops on our Hub sites and giving it away to people who have been benefit sanctioned or trapped on low and no incomes. We have also helped people to learn useful and traditional skills that can take with them throughout their lives.

What we are up against

But there is a side of our work that we have discovered and researched throughout our time doing it that paints a formidable enemy in our struggle for community food. Here is a few conversations I have had with people over this period and things I’ve picked up on in different areas. It would easy to just say that a lack of knowledge about healthy food and the economic inequality that perpetuates it and just end it there, but there is greater clarity and other issues attached when we hear it from the people who going through it and experiencing it their selves

‘People used to cook in my day, now they just order a takeaway on their phone that’s delivered to your door within an hour’

‘I can order a massive kebab on my phone for a fiver that is full of meat and vegetables, then cut it up into four large pieces, and that me and the kids sorted for tea. I cant cook ‘owt in the house cos the gas costs money and we are on a card meter, so only use the gas to heat the place’

‘The problem with people nowadays is that use fruit and vegetables like its medicine and they make a point about telling folk about the salad they just ate like its something good, my Mam and Dad didn’t have much money when we grew up but all of our meals were cooked with fresh produce that my Mam bought from the Market’

‘I,m pretty bad with me with food, most of what I eat is chicken, its really cheap in the freezer places, chicken burgers, hot strips, wings, thighs and chinese for £1.50 for a big bag. I just sling it in the oven with some oven chips and sometimes have salad with it’

‘We never really did that much cooking at School and my Mum didnt cook much cos she working all the time so I my microwave a lot, it takes two minutes to heat a tin of beans up and about the same time to make toast, where can you get a meal that you can eat in two minutes’

‘I do four twelve hour shifts a week and am usually too knackered to cook so I have a bacon butty at the canteen at work and a pie at dinner time and when I go home I stick summut in the oven, a pizza or a curry from the supermarket, but always try and have a proper cooked Sunday dinner’

‘I couldn’t eat those eggs from you chickens, at least when I get them from Asda I know where they have come from’

‘I regularly go without meals so the kids get enough’

‘Dont mind getting the kids can of pop, its one of their five a day isn’t it’

‘Since the cooker broke we use a microwave, I cant afford two hundred quid for a cooker, and when I top up my gas card some of it is taken to pay off my arrears’

 The problem is the solution

We know that there are multiple interrelated issues related to access to cleanly grown food as the conversation above point out, it would be pointless picking out isolated elements of these problems and trying to work with them when we can begin to deal with all of it directly on an individual basis by growing food in our gardens, yards on on our window sills, and within a community context by getting involved in or starting our own community food growing projects. We know that this solution works, can you think of a more direct way of getting fresh produce onto the plates of those who have scarce or no access to it than growing it yourself? Of course as a community growing group ourselves we can only stress the benefits of this direct and long lasting approach, and in the wake of our work there are now families dotted about our town who are highly likely to always grow some of their own food.

A self seeding food movement

Since I began growing myself in the early nineties there has been a slow and steady increase in people having a go at growing there own. But since the early two thousands the amount of people and groups taking up food growing has rocketed and there are dozens and dozens of community food growing project popping up all over the place.

On top of this the community supported agriculture schemes are up and running up and down the country, incredible edible projects are sprouting up across our towns and cities. As individuals and communities if we want to eat and have access to locally grown food then we cannot leave this to industrial agriculture, the markets, the speculators and share holders. Our interest is our health and well being, their interest is making as much money as possible from you. Carry on growing!


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Men in Sheds and community growing 21st Sept

A very fruitful and interesting day today has been. The morning began with opening up the site and making sure the Men in Sheds had brewing tackle and water, followed by some time spent with local community media CIC who are putting together a short promotional film for our crowd funding bid so that we are able to reach out to more people in Bolton.

We did some filming at the Hub site in Breightmet and also filmed some of growers who we worked with on this years project.

Meanwhile back at the hub Men in Sheds tutor Landrover Dave and the lads had been making vertical planters, and what an amazing job of the planters they did. The Men in Sheds project just seems to go from strength to strength with the lads gaining more skills and confidence with every week that passes.


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Breightmet community Hub 2015-2016 a case study

Breightmet Community food growing Hub is situated just off New Lane and is accessed via an estate cut through that people use as a short cut. The site itself around a quarter of an acre in size and is fenced off because of its former use as storage yard for Bolton at Home’s tech services as a place where building materials were stored.

Year one

In 2015 we began work on this blank canvas of a site and built raised beds from recycled wood from the Cawdor housing estate, despite a relatively late start on the site we managed to grow a fair amount of food which was given to people who were subjected to benefit sanctions and people on low or no incomes. During the summer we held a community cook in, where we made a large pan full of vegetable curry and invited our growers and other members of the community onto the site to have lunch with us and talk about growing, we expected around a dozen people to turn up, all in all we fed around fifty five people that day.

year two

In the spring of 2016 we began planting and sowing on the site which was now completely kitted out with raised beds, half way through the gardening season we lost most of our plug plants and seedling through vandalism, but we bounced back and sowed late summer crop seeds.

Men in Sheds

A men in Shed project also began onsite this year and has been running successfully for the last six months, this project supports men who are socially isolated and provides a social element where the men meet up on a once a week basis where they learn different elements of woodwork, carpentry, gardening and general tool use.


Hubs that serve the community

The idea behind the Breightmet Hub is to provide a local resource to the community where they are able to learn about organic horticulture, learn new and useful skills, and attend men in sheds sessions. Within the short two year existence around a hundred and fifty people have come onto the site and accessed it in some way, the Hub is also ideally located in the centre of the estate where the people live who access the site.


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Cawdor Estate Growing project 2015 case study

The Cawdor Estate is situated in Farnworth in Bolton and up until 2015 the estate was associated with anti social crime, and drug dealing, the estate was cleared of drug dealers and the associated crime by some collaborative work between housing charity Bolton at Home and the local police, the estate is now a safe and secure place for families and is now host to a thriving community.

Our work on the estate took place in the summer of 2015 when we worked with ten families on the estate where we provided food growing and horticultural resources and advice whenever it was needed. It was the women of the families who engaged with us the strongest, and they led the growing throughout the summer.

project Support sessions

As part of the ongoing support for the Cawdor Estate Growers we also ran a number of small workshops at our Willow Hey site, including: healthy cooking on a budget, seed sowing and care for indoor vegetables.

Video diaries

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