Our new Harmeny Community Allotment project started in 2013 has seen more than a physical transformation of a space that had been a grassy field with fences and hedging into an environmentally friendly imaginative growing place where children, staff and volunteers from the community gather to work together. In fact, they have worked so effectively over these months they harvested their first salad crops and vegetable crops during the summer!
But to return to the beginning: when Sam arrived he was amazed to find so much of the development work had already been done with the children. So he set out finding out what excited the children about the project, what roles they wanted to play, and what features they wanted to see on the allotment. They were eager to be involved in everything: digging, building, harvesting and marketing! Although another bike track was mentioned eagerly, they were also interested in a futuristic geodesic greenhouse and a pond. So from the beginning they have been involved in planting the first fruit trees, building the raised beds and planting the first potatoes, even using some of the seeds they sowed in their classrooms early in March when there was still snow on the ground!
The end of May found them beginning to harvest the first produce and linking this in to their food and nutrition sessions, discussing where the produce might go. This includes feeding themselves at the cottages and thinking about the wider community in Balerno: the local farmer’s market, the food co-operative and community cafe. ‘We are really well resourced in Balerno so Harmeny can tie into those organisations, and it is good for the kids to see the benefits of locally grown seasonal organic food, not only for themselves, but giving it to others too...’
But none of this would have happened so quickly without the community involvement: there have been local days where volunteers have come to help with the tree planting as well as making living willow structures and building the amazing willow dome, tunnel and archway. ‘One day around 50 people came from St Mungo’s Church in Balerno and worked wonders filling raised beds and digging paths, all jobs that would have taken me weeks to do. Instead, a massive transformation was possible in just one day!‘
What is still to come? Sam is now involving the children in designing and developing other spaces such as a sensory garden, theme beds, and wild life areas. This first year has seen a significant transformation of another living learning space for Harmeny which, like the rest of the grounds, touches on the spiritual relationship that has always existed between humans and the land that nourishes them.
We will be running regular volunteer days and horticultural workshops so if you are just starting out with growing or just want to come and garden as part of a group and share the harvest we would be delighted to hear from you. Please contact Sam, the Community Allotment Coordinator.