Friday was big time allotment action. Fundraising, communicating, photgraphing and delivering those precious seedlings.
Fundraising and letting local people know that U-Grow exists is vital, so I joined the Kent Shed day at Fort Luton, Chatham, to learn more about their work. (If you want any info, please let me know in comments.)
Fort Luton is a strange and unique place. After a strange and chequered history (war/development/landill) it is now a Community Interest Company. It is dedicated to serving the communities of Chatham and Rochester through a diverse portfolio of work and volunteering to serve its communities. I learnt a lot to take forward to U-Grow.
During the day at Fort Luton, town councillors, funders and citizens were asking me about what Ben and I want to achieve at U-Grow; why did we start; where do we see it going; what funding do we have? Why on earth are you mad, inexperienced people doing this on top of your full time jobs and families (they rarely say this, but it’s clear from the pinched foreheads and raised brows). Well, I explain: Ben had a vision of a field to fork allotment. Where we can grow, cook and learn. Where people can cme together and teach each other and eat together.
So where’s your funding from?
We have none, I smile.
Mostly, this is greeted with a slightly bemused, startled expression that on top of having little practical knowledge of growing, we have no money. “Broke, not even a farthing”, as one Audrey Hepburn character has said (I think).
But Ben and I between us work with people, we know that this can make a difference using the assets of our communities. From our different starting points (he is a pastor; I have background in mental health research, volunteering and retail), we know that a little goes a long way. That there are hard working people out there who need a break and somewhere to use their skills, and some company. (If you know of any funding in Kent please let me know!)
U-Grow itself is flourishing. Ben , his wife and their helpers, have made one of the three beds useable. There are potatoes, tomatoes, herbs, strawberries and winter roots growing. As inexperienced but enthusiatic people, we are starting small, managable. The other two beds can wait for bigger bands of volunteers and nice grant funding. We are showing what can be done by a community on shoestring. Imagine where we will be when we get funding. The sheds, the barbecues – maybe some electricity? A swing in a far corner?
We’re used to begging, borrowing, stealing and great at saying thank you to those who help us.
Look at what we’ve acheived through work, favours, asking and thanking.
Right now, I think it’s safe to say that a lot of us feel vulnerable and scared. My way to work against the people who seek to divide is to double down into my community, streamline my life so that I can meet others outside of my echo chamber, listen and talk. And get even better at trying to get free stuff off people.