Lyme Garden Growers
The benefits of locally grown food have long been recognised. Not just for the nutritional benefit but also the mental health, community benefits, a need to reduce our food miles and to support those on lower incomes to supplement an often unbalanced diet.
In October 2019 I met a young working mum, feeding her children mugs of Bovril and toast because they were too hungry to sleep. That day changed both of our lives.
During our conversation she told me that fresh fruit (especially strawberries) and vegetables was what they missed most of all. The next month Lyme Garden Growers was formed to provide free plants, seedlings and seeds to the residents of Lyme Regis and surrounding areas. The aim was to build food resilience within a community suffering higher than average levels of child poverty, in a large part due to the seasonal nature of our beautiful, seaside town. We felt the best way to do this was to make our sharing group free to everyone.
From first digging out the little red enamel bucket of part-used seed packets at the back of our shed the group has become a wonderful community movement with nearly 600 members online and many of those reaching out to friends, neighbours and relatives who don’t use social media. We think we now cover one quarter of our population.
At the height of the growing season we were giving away hundreds of seeds and seedlings some weeks and accepted that our terraced house and tiny, shady garden weren’t going to be nearly big enough to accommodate the project as it grew. We now have a buyer for our home (despite thinking we would spend the rest of our lives here) and fingers crossed, we think we have identified a possible two acre site on the outskirts of town. We plan to build a community workshop for the wonderful list of volunteers who have stepped forward to teach free classes in everything from seed saving, beekeeping and natural pest control to building a recycled cold frame, vermicomposting and trellising. We also plan a community kitchen for our harvest and food preservation days, a series of teaching beds and polytunnels and a community tool library.
We firmly stand by the ‘free and please, no donations’ rule which creates a wonderfully level playing field. A person with no money but a little knowledge or spare plants is as rich as the next person.
We are working with local schools, community groups, housing associations and councils to provide free vegetable, herb and berry beds wherever they are requested. We aim to build beds in every street, residential care home, school and car park.
There have been remarkable emotional benefits too and we will be working with the local medical practice as a venue for social prescribing.
One of the very first things we gave out was to the young mum who started this all. It was a donated hanging basket, overflowing with four wonderful strawberry plants.
Rikey & Paddy – Lyme Garden Growers