Today is International Carrot Day!
Let’s celebrate International Carrot Day - that's a sentence I never thought I would write!
So what’s the carrot/well-being of future generations connection?
My first conversation had to be with fellow Goal Convenor, Ceri-Anne Fiddler, seconded into the team from from the Wales Co-operative Centre. For Ceri and her family it’s a story of fun, healthy food and playing a part in her Rhydyfelin community.
“We love having fresh produce from my allotment and it’s great to show my son Tomos where his food comes from. He’s been visiting there since he was just a few weeks old (I used to go and water the polytunnel while on maternity leave). Growing pumpkins for Halloween is one of my favourite memories, we had a huge wheelbarrow full for Tomos’ first Halloween, so we also gave some to some of our neighbours’ kids who loved them and used them for our neighbourhood Halloween party.”
In my early twenties I shared an allotment with my mate Warren Carter. It was our first venture into growing and we brought all our raw enthusiasm and inexperience to work a plot in our hometown of Slough. Our successes were rewarding as we juggled growing with busy lives. Whenever I smell fresh coriander I am instantly taken back to our allotment neighbour harvesting deep green coriander with its intoxicating aroma. He grew it for his family and especially his brother who worked in a Indian restaurant.
Warren moved to Brighton where he took growing to another level. He and friends took over a derelict allotment plot in the Mousecombe area and there started a journey involving local families, with a focus on kids not attending school, transforming the site into a thriving community venture which you can read about in his brilliantly-told blog Seedy Business.
Wales has superb examples of community growing. United Welsh, my own Housing Association has teamed up with sister organisations, Valleys to Coast, Tai Calon, Newydd and Linc Cymru to support Space Saviours to offer practical help and encouragement to local residents who have ideas about bringing unloved land back into community use. For some local people that use might be for growing, for others to encourage local play, sport, biodiversity – the ideas and possibilities are limitless as is the energy, goodwill, experience and commitment in the community.
Rachel Lovell, project worker with Space Saviours, has a beautifully simple approach. She sits down with residents over a cuppa and talk though ideas and then works alongside them to help them turn their dreams into reality.
Part of Rachel’s skill is to connect groups to expertise that is already out there , especially City Farms and Community Gardens who have produced one of the best start-up guides around.
Forward thinking councils across Wales are looking at how they can enable communities to take on their land for food growing. A great example is Monmouthshire and their Community Growing Policy where there is a growing demand for the Council to make underutilised land in its ownership available for the community to grow food. A new approach is needed because demand for allotments has gone through the roof, household budgets are tight and coming together is a practical way of building community resilience.
So growing carrots is good for building strengths in our communities.
Coming really close to my Pontypridd home last word goes to my friend and neighbour Stuart Jones. He is also a passionate grower and committee member of the Craig Allotment Society. The well-being benefits are obvious:
“Allotments are a place to get away from it all and enjoy some peace and solace as well as an opportunity to come together as part of a supportive community.”
Stuart is researching the history of the local society. Allotments societies were forming at exactly the same time as other important working class led movements like the Ramblers but with a difference. Ramblers campaigned for the right to roam the land and allotments were the opportunity for people to shape the land.
There are photos of the Graig allotment dating back to the 1930s but its roots go back to the start the First World War.
“The allotment is one of the important pieces of social infrastructure that was woven into the emerging community that grew up around the rapidly expanding coal industry. The allotment was a place to become part of the community. Our allotment still fulfills that role today.”