Environment in association with the Mirror

Funding level: £1,001 to £5,000

Description

We are scaling up our community gardening for health, employment and habitats in Taunton. So far, a small and dedicated group of volunteers has been cultivating derelict land to grow food – kale, tomatoes, pumpkins, broad beans, courgettes and more. Our main plot is land that we own ourselves next to the listed building where we provide flats for social rental and workspace for community enterprise.
We are hoping that, as well as vacant land, some of the large, flat roofs in Taunton could be used for lightweight, urban agriculture – something that has been done successfully in other towns and cities.
So far, the garden-grown vegetables in Taunton have largely been for donation to the Open Door Project which works with homeless people. We hope to progress to growing food for sale, while keeping up the supply of fresh food to local charities. As this social enterprise develops we hope it will create some employment as well as volunteering opportunities.
There are numerous benefits to rooftop growing in towns:
- habitats for bees and other foraging insects- training and employment opportunities close to where people live
- improved engagement and productivity from people working in the building
- slowed run-off from rainfall means less flooding
- additional insulation on roofs
- improved air quality
- isolation from other crops means less loss to pests and disease
- encourages more eating of fresh vegetables
- better observation and maintenance of the roof
Our proposal is that regular gardening sessions, led by qualified staff and involving small groups of volunteers, trainees and employees from the building in question, could take place on the roof of various town centre premises. These would be carefully scheduled so as to manage access and security concerns.
At the same time we will continue to look for derelict sites that are unsuitable for other development and can be secured for several years ahead – we have already been offered the use of another garden on East Reach on this basis.
This is a very new project which has the potential to make Taunton a greener, healthier and more convivial place. We need to build up a stock of tools and equipment, and establish a more or less permanent base of operations with polytunnel growing space and some shared office space. We want to raise our profile in the town and invest paid worker time in negotiating access deals for other sites and rooftops. We want to partner with smallholders in the surrounding countryside who can share their skills, and with horticulture students at the local agricultural colleges.

Somerset Co-operative Community Land Trust

Moment of Pride

We are excited by the way in which neglected urban eyesores can be transformed into fertile and productive land; we are also motivated to get more town dwellers in contact with the earthy and empowering business of growing food. We want to see the concrete jungle bloom!

Location: Taunton