New growing initiative aims to ‘re-imagine’ Guernsey’s food landscape
Edible Guernsey, an ambitious growing project, has been launched to help drive interest in local food production and organisers are hoping the island will get behind the charity with sponsorship and volunteers. The project includes a community farm and a food directory listing local growers and is committed to providing educational opportunities and to preserving the island’s wealth of local growing knowledge.
The Edible Farm is a three vergee* site based at Plaisance in St Peter’s. The old Sandpiper Vinery has been secured on a ten-year lease and the large greenhouse has already been cleared. Planting will soon begin, educational spaces have been planned and in time the team hope to convert an old shed into a farm shop.
Volunteers will be able to give their time and labour on the farm in exchange for food grown. This system has been conceived to overcome one of the primary problems of food production. ‘Labour costs are high and it’s one of the reasons Guernsey can’t compete with imports from countries with lower labour costs,’ explains Jock Pettitt, one of the charity’s founders.
‘We urge anyone to get involved. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have growing experience or much time to give. A few hours a week or just helping on an occasional basis will still mean you can take away some freshly grown produce,’ says Mr Pettitt.
The project will help to pass on and preserve the island’s treasured growing knowledge and has secured the help of ‘growing mentors’ including former Senior Advisor at the States of Guernsey Horticultural Advisory Service, John Woodward, who said: ‘Edible Guernsey’s new flagship venture will offer people, including those with absolutely no previous experience, the chance to help grow fruit and vegetables that they can then take a share of.
‘The beauty of this scheme is that it will let people do as much or as little as they feel they can manage. There will be someone on hand to manage the work and help with advice on how to do it. It’s simple, elegant and brilliant and the reason that no one has done it before, is that it is a massive undertaking to get it started. ‘
Leading local horticulturalist Malcolm Cleal added: ‘This project goes a long way to facilitating an understanding in the importance and value of producing food locally and organically. Guernsey’s future prosperity lies in the health and wellbeing of the residents, young and old and to have a site where people of all ages and abilities can participate and learn from the production of fruit and vegetables can only be to the benefit of everybody.’
An indoor fruit orchard will be one of the first areas to take shape. And in time, the Edible Farm will have livestock and could even feature a café serving food grown on the site.
Educational spaces will welcome visits from school children, helping to bring alive lessons about nutrition, ecology and food production. D’Arcy Brimson, the Education Department’s Health, Safety and Outdoor Education Manager said ‘Learning where food comes from and how it is grown supports the messages delivered in schools about healthy eating and healthy lifestyles as well as being fun and interactive. We at the Education Department look forward to seeing how the Edible Guernsey initiative develops.’
‘Islandmums is proud to support this local initiative’, says Sasha Kazantseva, Chief Mummy Officer of Islandmums Limited (formerly Guernseymums). ‘We are especially excited about the plans for educating families about growing food, knowledge that is increasingly being lost. We are what we eat and with Edible Guernsey we have a chance to educate thousands of local children about finding, growing and eating healthy food from hands on experiences.’
The Edible Guernsey project is also working on the Edible Directory, which they hope in time will become a definitive guide to local growers, farms, hedge veg stalls and small holdings on the island. Anyone can submit a listing via www.edibleguernsey.gg
The third focus for the charity is to increase awareness of foraging and to educate islanders about the foods which are found in the land and seascapes. In time Edible Guernsey hopes to encourage the responsible planting of edibles into the wider landscape. This will include parks, common land and coastal areas as well as planters, verges and window boxes throughout the island.
‘To date we have had a lot of help from a small band of volunteers and from the Community Service Scheme,’ says Mr Pettitt. ‘To take the project on we now need sponsorship, be that financial or for time and materials. We also need more people to get involved, there is no need to have growing knowledge, just a desire to get involved.’
David Winn Chairman of Osprey Investments, the owner of the site, comments: ‘I am delighted to support Edible Guernsey by providing the vinery, and enabling the charity’s objective, to re-imagine Guernsey’s food landscape, to get under way.’
Notes to editors
Media enquiries: please contact Nichole Sweetsur, Sweet PR on 07781155188 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Anyone interested in getting involved in the project by offering sponsorship should email email@example.com
Anyone wishing to volunteer the time on the farm should email firstname.lastname@example.org
The founders Jon Pettit, Karen Marsh and Marguerite Talmage are available for comment.
Visits to the site can be arranged by emailing email@example.com
Directions to the Edible Farm
Pass the airport heading west towards St Peter’s village centre. Continue about half a mile until you see the new airport access gateway on your right (where La Mare Road used to be). Turn immediately left into Rue des Heches, the derelict part of the vinery site will be right in front of you as you make the turn. Drive up the lane approximately 100 metres and take the first entrance on the right hand side into the vinery site. Tel: 07911 719081
Perry’s ref 27H2
* Three vergees is approximately five acres
What an amazing couple of months it has been seeing this project come to life from the initial seed of an idea whilst visiting the site nearly a year ago. Sharing that idea was met with a lot of vocal support, and none moreso than from Karen and Marguerite who have quickly turned that support to action, becoming instrumental in the project and in particular the monumental efforts required to create the edible farm.
At present the site offers a blank canvas to which we will steadily build the thriving and abundant community farm, producing fruits, herbs and vegetables. Achieving that blank canvas has taken a lot of work and there is much still to do.
When we first visited the site, although the main greenhouse structure was in good order, the weeds and brambles were a dominant force, the old mechanics of the site were in disrepair and not necessary for our plans, the wider landscape of the site was littered with abandoned vehicles and litter, the electrics and water didn’t function and the stone buildings were strewn with the remnants of a site abandoned.
Little by little the efforts of working party volunteers, the directors of the charity, the community service scheme and more recently the support of a growing list of sponsors offering time, services, money and more have changed all that.
We now have nearly two acres of glasshouse cleared of weeds and brambles and stripped of the old heating pipes and mechanics that are no longer necessary for our aims. We have soil samples taken and with the advice received we are starting to break and condition the soil ready for planting. Initially this will be contained to small sections of herbs and vegetables, a number of fruit canes and trees in the indoor orchard and a dedicated children’s area that will form the beginnings of our education zone. The more hands we have at the working parties to undertake this initial infrastructure the sooner we will achieve it. Your hands are very welcome and much needed.
It’s worth saying that the volunteers we require for this project are not just hands on, able bodied or with vast growing experience. There is so much to do to assist from administration and accounts, to trades such as plumbing, mechanics and fabrication, and of course plenty of seedlings to plant, produce to sort and prepare for distribution. As Pam Warhurst, of Incredible Edible Todmorden, says, ‘if you eat, you’re in’ and she’s not wrong, we can no doubt make use of whatever skill, service or time you have to offer.
Until now it has been about what we at edible guernsey have been doing to create the edible farm. Now, at our time of launch to the public it is time to welcome the wider community on site and ask what we can collectively achieve.
In order to open the site for business outside of the current working parties we need to secure the services of a number of site supervisors. We have a great team of mentors already whose collective growing experience will help shape the direction we take, our site supervisors will ensure that vision is applied in the day to day activity of the people who visit the site. If you can spare two hours or more per week you will be able to guide volunteers with varying ability and experience to work in unison to achieve the results possible when we all pull in the same direction.
The more supervisors we have the more time we can open the site for people to drop in and in time we hope to have the site open during all daylight hours each week. We look forward to achieving remarkable things together and working towards food security for our island population.
When was the last time you had a tomato?
Now think again, when was the last time you had a tomato that launched a tomato styled assault on the taste buds instead of a tomato shaped object with little or none of the personality of the real thing?
We have become increasingly accustomed to having whatever produce we wish for whether it’s in or out of season. Shopping in any supermarket you will find an abundance of fruits and vegetables available which are not in season, providing convenience by having exactly the same foods available year-round.
Many of these out of season, non-organic foods depend on waxes, chemicals, and preservatives to make them look fresh and tastier than they are. These foods are produced for long shelf life and looks rather than flavour. It’s not only the flavour of the produce that suffers either, it also effects our local growers market opportunity as imported produce bucks the seasonal restrictions faced by local organic growers.
There is nothing better than a vine-ripe local tomato grown by a local farmer that you know by name.
Below are four simple benefits of purchasing organic seasonal foods from local farmers…
Eating seasonal foods helps to support our bodies natural cleansing and healing abilities. They are picked at the peak of freshness and offer higher nutritional content than out of season unripe fruits and vegetables. Eating with the seasons you can enjoy a rainbow of colourful and diverse foods in your diet as well as providing your body with a wide variety of important vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that you need to maintain vibrant health.
Organic seasonal foods are grown in a sustainable manner by farmers who care about their local environment. Crop rotation is used to increase soil fertility with beneficial insects encouraged instead of using toxic pesticides and sustainable composting methods applied to dispose of organic waste.
By not using toxic chemicals, poisonous pesticides, herbicides, and genetically modified seeds, organic and chemical free local farmers provide us with healthier foods whilst protecting our environment and the farm workers health. These sustainable methods of raising foods yields a superior product offering better taste, quality and nutrition over imported commercially grown foods.
Eating with the seasons and purchasing local foods has environmental benefits reducing the number of miles your food has to travel before it reaches your plate. This helps cut back on fuel use, in turn reducing pollution. Making a conscious choice to purchase organic, seasonal, and local foods we help protect our water, air and land.
When you choose to buy seasonal, locally grown foods you provide financial support to the farmers in your area which helps to grow your local economy. Seasonal foods will also offer much better value than out of season foods which will save you money on your grocery bills.
These detailed infographics offer a guide to growing and buying fruit vegetables and herbs in season.
Thanks to www.chasingdelicious.com for the images.
A simple pictorial guide to companion planting helping to reduce pests, maximise productivity and make efficient use of space.
Many of the problems experienced in large scale farming are due to the expanses of single crop, or monoculture, requiring significant intervention with chemical pesticides and fertilisers, in order to feed the crop and prevent pests and disease in a cost effective manner. The cheaper the food on the shelf, especially when imported, the more likely it has come from a large scale farming structure with a range of chemical nasties applied.
At the edible farm we offset the cost of producing the finest quality fruit and evgetrables by working with volunteer labour in exchange for produce and aim to celebrate the diversity of companion planting. We share this simple guide to help other smallholders follow suit.