On Saturday 14th July, over 100 people came together in Glastonbury to celebrate local food and explore how we create a truly Incredible Edible Somerset. Organised by Somerset Community Food the day took place at St Dunstans School and Paddington Farm.
The day began as Nicole Vosper from the Somerset Land & Food Project introduced the aims of the day, which were to share the learning from the Somerset Land & Food Project, a 3 year big lottery funded project designed to bring more land into community production, as well as to launch Incredible Edible Somerset, a new network of community growers across Somerset. The final aim was to harvest the ideas & collective intelligence from everyone involved in the day to help decide the next steps for Somerset to build a sustainable local food system.
Stephen Vince from the Race into Time Art Exhibition introduced the art on display, gently linking the beautiful paintings and sculptures with our relationship to food, particularly around the Olympic Games. For more information about the work & its meaning, see here.
The room were then introduced to Mary Clear, who had travelled all the way from Yorkshire to share the story of Incredible Edible Todmorden. People heard of the grassroots action that had been taking place in Todmorden, including planters in public places, cooking lessons on the street as well as work with schools & a new food hub in the town. The room were lifted & inspired as people watched in amazement as Mary casually introduced the Incredible Edible projects springing up all over the globe and the achievement of this small town's efforts.
Philip Turvil from the Garden Organic Master Gardener's Program then took to the floor and introduced his project's work across the UK that has supported over 3,401 people to be regularly mentored to grow food in over 1,500 households and groups.
Full of inspiration & ideas, attendees then got the chance to sample some apple juice from Porlock Community Orchard in West Somerset. After the break it was time to get thinking caps on & join different workshops.
The first workshop was Access to Land 101, where individuals got the chance to ask all the questions they had about access to land in different areas - community gardens, allotments, land trusts & CSAs. Mary Clear, Allan Cavill from the National Society of Leisure Gardeners, Rebecca Marshall from the Community Land Advisory Service and Carol Stone from HogCo in Devon, were all available to answer questions.
The room then split into small groups to discuss the barriers and challenges that had been faced by people looking for land as well as the potential solutions. To read notes from this session, please see here.
Taking place at the same time was the Skilling Up Somerset Workshop. Participants got to hear presentations from different people working in food & growing-orientated education. Rebecca Sandover a local allotmenteer & PhD candidate talked about how allotments support the cascading of practical knowledge and Lisa Herbert gave an introduction to the Magdalen Project and their model of supporting people to learn land based skills. Sarah Milner Simmonds also talked about Cannington College and asked the audience about their memories of learning how to grow to demonstrate how skills are commonly gained without intellectual study but through practical learning and osmosis. Jane Sweetman, the longstanding trainer with Somerset Community Food talked about the Get Set Grow & Get Set Cook Models and her teaching experiences around Somerset.
The room then divided to explore what had been going well for food related learning in Somerset as well as what had been challenging, the long term goals and next achievable steps. To read notes from this session, please see here.
Filling up with ideas and opportunities there were still more workshops to go, as people then chose to either join the discussion about how to build an effective local food network in Somerset or to participate in Growing Change, a workshop about therapeutic horticulture, food poverty & how food relates to inequalities.
In the movement discussion, Adam Payne from Organic Lea talked about his experience with the Community Food Growers Network in London, that has come together to share skills, tools and offer solidarity for each other's work and projects. Feeling inspired, everyone then formed small groups and took on the big task of exploring what next for Somerset. Interesting conversations were happening everywhere as people discussed and debated what had been challenging, what had been going well and finally what some shared long term goals could be as well as the steps for making them happen. To read notes from this session, please see here.
Growing change also created the space for discussion - talks about funding challenges, community engagement and re-distributing surpluses all filled the room. David Maggs, Social Justice & Environment Advisor at the Bath & Wells Diocese informed participants about the reality of food poverty in Somerset and Alison Hayward from the Vanessa Project in Yeovil, that has long supported individuals with mental health challenges on a community allotment, talked about the results of her work at South Somerset Mind.
Finally it was lunchtime, with a delicious buffet of offerings prepared with lots of local ingredients by Amanda Bond of Glastonbury Good Food. The hall felt alive with energy as people ate together, shared stories about their work and projects, swapped tips about their favourite plants and recommended seed varieties and more. Around the edges of the hall were the displays as part of the Somerset Community Food showcase, including those from Henley Hill Farm, Milford Community Garden, Reclaim the Fields, Axbridge Community Allotment, Porlock Community Orchard, Transition Glastonbury and more.
After lunch people moved up to Paddington Farm for the practical activities. One group took to a tour around the farm, seeing some of its regular activities in action such as its forest school. Meanwhile Jane Sweetman supported a group to learn more about how we can care for the soil, introducing a wide range of topics & techniques, including composting, green manures and mulching methods.
Robert Macbeth, a grower at Torganics Market Garden that is situated on the farm, led a polytunnel workshop, looking at the systems used in the Torganic Polytunnels as well as how anyone can make the most of their indoor ecosystem.
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