Visit to Farnham Gardening Society meeting

On Wednesday last week Ian, Rob and Joyce went to the Farnham Gardening Society meeting to talk about the garden share.

Vince from the Farnham Local Food Initiative (FLFI) was also there to talk about FLFI as well as Kevin Taitt from Farnham Town Council.

Kevin talked about Farnham in Bloom and the allotments. I think it is safe to say the members of the society were most interested in Farnham in Bloom, perhaps because it was a group of them that had started entering the competition about a decade ago. The town council dedicates a lot of energy to the competition now, planting out planters and beds, watering them and keeping everything neat and removing graffiti.

Someone asked whether food had ever been grown, instead of flowers. Kevin said it had never really been tried — apart from anything else they would be worried the food items might be eaten!

Everyone congratulated Kevin and his team for the grand job they do. Britain in Bloom is a national competition. Farnham usually do very well in the town category.

There was some interest in the allotments. Kevin explained how the allotments were regulated and what is and is not permissible (sheds are as long as they are not too big, fallow ground is not). Kevin talked about the ways in which he tries to foster a sense of community amongst the allotment holders and how he communicates useful advice. There is an internet site and a periodic newsletter, competitions, seed swaps and allotment site representatives.

Ian’s talk about the Farnham Garden Share raised some emotion – and impatience! Ian tried to explain that the garden share scheme was created partly in response to global warming and peak oil – grow things locally in order to use less fuel. But most people there were not interested in climate change or peak oil.

At the end of the talk, however, one member did volunteer the fact that he had been gardening for his elderly neighbours for some years. (The gentleman in question was of advanced years himself, so his neighbours must have been extremely venerable). Anyway, he recommended the garden share idea strongly as a way of fostering community… which of course it is!

The lessons learned? This experience reinforces some of our core principles: to make it fun, ‘build sandcastles’, build relationships, raise awareness.

The reason we started this group may well be climate change and peak oil, but that is not really important. What is important is to focus on what we are doing (not why we are doing it). And what we are doing, as the old gentleman pointed out, is building a stronger, more exciting, more fun community in and around Farnham.

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