15 Minutes… Social Growing
Community gardens and care farms are so much more than a refreshing place to visit outdoors, where animals thrive and plants and vegetables are grown.
They also boost healthy living initiatives, enable social enterprises, provide ‘green care’, and offer facilities for people with disabilities. The list goes on. They are fantastic community focal points.
If you were thinking of starting one there is help at hand.
Social Farms & Gardens (SF&G) is a UK-wide charity supporting communities to farm, garden and grow together with hundreds of members across the UK and dozens in Devon. Some of the Devon members include Clare and Michael Morpurgo’s Farms for City Children, St Thomas Community Garden, Broadclyst Community Farm, Stoney Orchard Growing Community, Exeter Community Garden and Knights Care Farm.
Clair Fyn, director of A Kind Of Magical Animal Centre in Kingskerswell, says they joined SF&G in 2021 and have benefited from the support of the charity, and the broader network.
“It’s always good to keep up with what others in the sector are up to,” she says, highlighting the busy members Facebook page as a great real-time resource.
Membership is free, and the resources on tap vast, which helps explain how the network among the care farms has grown from under 100 farms to over 400 this year, with hundreds more smaller community gardens signing up across the UK.
The charity can help explain the different models of garden or farm, how to start, where to look for a site, how to budget and it offers assistance with training volunteers too. As you progress, further help is available to help you deal with some of the challenges that will present themselves, like how to make your site commercially successful, how to look after everyone’s health and safety, how to engage with other community role-players (for example schools), what insurance you may need and similar.
By offering this support SF&G is enabling the gardens and farms to then deliver on the primary benefit which is to provide a powerful mix of nature, social interaction and meaningful gardening and farming activity to their local communities.
Clair Fyn says the happiness created is tangible. “By interacting with the animals and staff, young people find the confidence to socialise and relax at our peaceful, friendly centre.
“This positive experience is carried over into their school and home life,” she says. “We offer them the opportunity to see how nature and animals can decrease the negative stress in their lives and help them live a happier, more fulfilling life.”
For more information visit the Social Farms & Gardens website www.farmgarden.org.uk
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This manageable there and back route offers easy walking and wheeling along the eastern side of the reservoir and to the dams, plus additional access to the wildlife trail in the Burrator Arboretum