Transition town group sets up garden share scheme

The following article has been published in the Farnham Herald, dated 30th January 2009:

By Corina Larby,

“Farnham residents who have unproductive or under-used garden land that they would like to see put to good use cultivating vegetables are to be linked up with would-be growers who lack a suitable plot.

The garden share scheme has been planned by Transition Town Farnham, an organisation which sprang up last year, aimed at encouraging the community to respond to the challenge of climate change and the end of cheap oil

The scheme will be similar to that being operated by Transition Town branches in Totnes, Lewes, and Brighton and promoted by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in his River Cottage series.

“Especially now that growing your own food is becoming increasingly popular, it seems an ideal opportunity to make use of otherwise unproductive land that could be nicely growing runner beans and the like,” said organised Ian Bysh.

“It’s great because there are over 120 people waiting for allotment sites in Farnham. The wait could be several years. Farnham Garden Share could help reduce the wait considerably.”

Transition Town Farnham have planned the scheme to provide an agency service matching gardeners with garden owners in Farnham and outlying villages on the basis of compatibility and local proximity.

“At the moment it’s gardens we need,” said Mr Bysh.

“It’s not a free gardening service, though. Gardeners will have the freedom to grow fruit and vegetables in the way they feel inspired. However, there will be a proper agreement and rules of engagement just so there are no misunderstandings.

For example, we recommend about a quarter of the produce is donated to the garden owner.”

Barbara Bristow, who heads the Farnham Volunteer Bureau, has been among the first to put her garden forward for consideration. She told The Herald she regarded it as a “win-win” situation.

“I am at a stage where I am trying to get my garden to self-maintenance. I thought that although I wouldn’t be growing vegetables myself, it would be good for someone else to have the opportunity.

“We do get a proportion of the produce, but even if we didn’t it wouldn’t worry me. It would be nice to have part of the garden cared for while at the same time someone benefitted.”

Mr Bysh said that people who wanted to take part will be interviewed and vetted and gardens would have to meet certain criteria, for instance having suitable growing soil and access without going through the house.

A contract would have to be signed between gardener and ‘gardenee’ to avoid any friction and Mr Bysh believes participants will approach the partnership with good spirit. “Part of the reason for the scheme is to build the sense of community,” he pointed out.

“We like the idea of people who can no longer manage their gardens being able to pass on their experience and skills. We’d be reviving a neighbourhood kitchen garden culture in Farnham.

“We’d love to see people swapping growing tips, nutritional information and recipes. Here at Transition Town Farnham we’ve got all sorts of plans to do this, such as Seedy Sundays, apple days, composting galas and the like.”

As well as strengthening the community through new friendships, the scheme aims to reduce food miles. Oil prices are increasingly likely to increase as oil starts to run out, making the weekly shop more and more expensive.

Growing food locally not only helps ensure our food security, but is kinder to the environment and, in case you’ve never eaten home-grown produce before, it’s unbeatably delicious and healthy.

Anyone who has some spare garden land, or would like to grow your own locally, can call Ian Bysh on 01252 738546 or look at the Farnham Transition Town website

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