In between two very wet, dull days, we were lucky to get a beautiful sunny Friday for a Grow Cook Eat Network visit to Lovebrook Farm in Kingston. We were warmly welcomed with hot drinks and delicious pastries while the group of 24 introduced themselves and shared information about the project they volunteer with.
We then heard from Hannah and Rich about their full packed weekly farm schedule of community volunteer days, market gardening traineeships, nature clubs, ecotherapy groups and more!
We then had a tour of the market garden from Lee who shared how the year for them works and more about the market gardening traineeship. It’s amazing to see what has been accomplished within the last two years of Lovebrook Farm. Someone spotted a large stone on the top of the hill. Rich explained it wasn’t an ancient monument but it had a very interesting story of how it came to be there. Look out for an opportunity to visit and find out more for yourself.
We walked back down the hill to find an amazing lunch of squash and chickpea curry, sourdough, houmous and salad waiting for us (many of the ingredients straight off the farm). It was a real treat to eat this wonderful food while getting to know the volunteers from other projects working together to share good food with the community.
After lunch Ruby gave the group two questions to discuss:
What are the barriers for taking part in Growing Cooking and Eating projects?
Do you have any good examples of ways you support volunteers at your projects? Or suggestions on increasing engagement?
The answers are really interesting. Please see the full list below.
One interesting point we discussed and we agreed it is important to find ways to ‘nurture the nurturers’. Managing and volunteering with community groups is really hard work and the risk of burn-out is high. We want the GCE network to be as much about this as it is about bringing new people into projects.
As part of the Grow Cook Eat Network we offer the opportunity for members to visit other projects, meet and have lunch together and find out more about what they do. This was the first GCE Network meet up of this kind and what a treat it was to attend.
If you are from a local project and would like to join the network, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details. If you are interested in hearing more about Grow Cook Eat projects, please email to subscribe to the email updates.
Question: What are the barriers for taking part in Growing Cooking and Eating projects?
- Lack of existing connection/familiarity
- Affordability – can they afford the time?
- Awareness of opportunities
- Shyness – hard to go somewhere the first time
- Publicity – getting knowledge out there
- Mental health
- Money for transport
- Transport for non-car owners
- Balancing need to earn money with volunteering
- Competing commitments
- Expectations – giving up time as a resource
- Awareness – how to publicise?
- Confidence – health worries
- People are time poor – need to grab people’s attention
- Time constraints
- Lack of kitchen space
- Mental health (anxiety)
- Work schedules clashing
- Location (have to send link on map)
- Time restraints
- Health issues
Question: Do you have any good examples of ways you support volunteers at your projects? Or suggestions on increasing engagement?
- Connections with schools – lots of growing and composting happening
- Training for gardeners/allotment holders
- Offer soup/veg etc – to take away – people like to feel they are helpful and contributing
- Nurturing the nurturer – “I would like to offer relaxation, gentle yoga and meditation sessions” – Karen (karenhallmovement.com)
- Providing a minibus
- Letting people just come and enjoy the “space” rather than feeling they have to work
- Be direct – sessions for refugees, BAME etc
- Specific workshops like carpentry
- Make connections with Plumpton & agricultural colleges
- Designate one day (Friday) for community volunteering
- Rewarding volunteers with free veg bags
- Training (sustainability, biodiversity)
- Rewards = food, soup, mince pies etc
- Opportunity to socialise
- Social events
- Connect with photography groups – create a competition for photo’s that can be used (get in touch with Making It Happen)
- Use more local promotion networks (Newhaven Matters, Seaford Scene, Lewesian, Peacehaven Directory)
- Activities – seasonal days, barn dance, working with DofE providers, working with international groups
- Make all feel welcome and valued
- Encourage different skills and interests
- Give away produce
- Shared time – coffee breaks, lunches
- Evenings out – eg Christmas get-togethers
- Be explicit that EVERYONE IS WELCOME when they are (kids, LGBTQI+ etc)
- having a daily schedule like Lovebrook is great idea – let’s people know what they could get involved with on different days
- I would love to receive a veg bag for volunteering (skills swap that Lovebrook mentioned)
- Social media presence
- Tap in to social prescriber service
- Family support work referrals
- Volunteer events – lunch, promoting the social side of it, like a little family, community spirit and collaboration
- Sharing ideas, training for volunteers, courses/workshops, first aid/safeguarding/mental health awareness etc
- Creativity in nature (arts therapies etc)