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Good to Grow Day – reconnecting communities with food growing

Many of Better Food Trader’s network of small ethical fruit and veg retailers not only sell food, but grow it too. In the lead up to Good to Grow Day, Bella Driessen of Sustain tells us about an inspiring Community Supported Agriculture project near Brighton, Fork and Dig It, where shares of the farm’s produce are sold to members alongside an invitation to learn to grow vegetables. 

Good to Grow Day, previously known as the Big Dig, is an annual event run by Capital Growth and Good to Grow at Sustain. This year it’s taking place between the 22nd and 25th of April – and it’s not too late to sign up and take part! It is a time to celebrate, a chance to bring communities together, and an opportunity to take action in the food system.

Every year, community gardens up and down the country throw open their gates and welcome in volunteers, new and old, to take part in any number of different events, from farm tours to seed swaps; building sheds to eating cake. There is no one strict way of doing it – and it’s not just run-of-the-mill community gardens that take part…

Brighton CSA – Fork and Dig It CIC have been running Good to Grow Day events for almost as long as they’ve existed. Set up in 2011 in the early days of the UK’s Community Supported Agriculture movement, they have gone from strength to strength. On just two acres, Julia Lawton and her fellow growers produce food for 40 families through 48 weeks of the year.

Community supported agriculture (CSA) is a model of food production in which the eaters sign up as members with ‘shares’ in the farm’s produce, buying produce in advance of the growing season. It is a partnership between growers and eaters which shares the risks and rewards of growing food. Beyond simply exchanging money for food, members can be involved through investment in the farm, sharing the costs of production, receiving a share of the harvest, or providing labour.

 

Julia Lawton, who jointly runs Brighton CSA – Fork and Dig It CIC, says: “Community Supported Agriculture is a movement that’s growing quickly because it works for the farmers and the community.”

Fork and Dig It, at its heart, is about connecting people with their food and where it’s grown as well as providing the essential missing middle function of the retailer, with a focus on people and planet, not profit. It not only provides benefits to the producers and to the eaters – the benefits also stretch beyond their local sphere, with schools visiting to learn about agroecological food production. They want to connect their community to low carbon, seasonal, highly nutritious food, and envisage a future where there are CSAs in every town and village across the country: a network of connected dots.

This wider vision of a different type of food system is absolutely central to the work Fork and Dig It do. “We started off as producers,” says Julia, “but we very quickly realised that we couldn’t grow enough food to change the food system – we realised we had to grow growers.” For six years, they have been running year-long traineeships so they can be a springboard for more CSAs to be set up around the country.

People are at the heart of Fork and Dig It: over the years they have built up a strong community of volunteers, Sharers and trainees, past and present. And each year, on Good to Grow Day, they open the gates, bake delicious cakes, and welcome in even more people to connect with their community and with their food.

“Small scale projects that are open to people, like ours, have community interest at heart,” says Julia. “People need places they can gather that are healthy places, which promote healthy eating and healthy, active lifestyles. Food is so essential to all of us – it’s a great way to connect and shared meals can really help to mitigate against loneliness.”

They find that every year they get busier and busier: with the repeated shocks of Covid, nature loss, and climate change, increasing numbers of people have been re-engaging with food and where it comes from, and Fork and Dig It have been more than happy to welcome them in.

Good to Grow Day is a time for community gardens to celebrate and inspire their neighbours to take action. Brighton CSA – Fork and Dig It is an excellent example of how a food business can themselves be at the heart of their local community and take part in the celebration. So why not have a go? If you want to sign up your farm or garden to welcome volunteers this Good to Grow Day, sign up here. You’ll be added to our map, so volunteers can find you, and you’ll have access a range of resources to help you plan and promote your event. If you want to find out more, get in touch at bella@sustainweb.org.

Are you a budding gardener? Or looking for a nice day out with the kids? Have a look for your local community garden on the Good to Grow map and get involved!

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