GardenTags catches up with Sara Venn, founder of Incredible Edible Bristol…
Horticulturalist, writer, food activist and founder of Incredible Edible Bristol
Q. When the weather is cold and wet what gets you out of bed and outside growing?
A. When it’s freezing and wet what gets me out and into our gardens is our amazing volunteers who come out in all weathers to grow food in their communities. They are the real inspiration for me.
Q. Wouldn’t it be easier to get yourself a desk job?
A. I can think nothing worse than a desk job. I love being outside, growing and sharing my knowledge with other people and have spent the last 20 years of my life working outside doing that. I also like to be action led and it’s hard to be that at a desk!
Q. What does a typical day for you look like?
A. There’s no such thing as a typical day! Everyday is completely different.
Q. So comrade. Tell us how you’re sparking an urban growing revolution?
A. Incredible Edible is sparking an urban growing revolution in tons and cities across the UK and the world. By taking lost and unloved spaces and turning them into beautiful and productive gardens, and working with the whole community to do so, it is challenging the idea of where we get our food from as well as what the urban realm looks like. Creating food that is available to all in every community also means that conversations are opened and food becomes the centre of the community. Here is Bristol we work with other organisations, schools and businesses to make this happen across the entire city, with an Urban Food Trail, gardens on station platforms, in schools, parks and on road sides.
Q. We’ve been so inspired by your work for Incredible Edible. Can you tell us a bit more about it and how we can get involved?
A. With 120 groups in the UK it’s easy to get involved with Incredible Edible. Here in Bristol we just say come along and get involved at your closest garden but each group has different ways so the best thing is to look at the www.incredibleediblenetwrok.org.uk and see where those groups are and get in touch with them yourself. Of course if you haven’t got a group nearby why not begin one yourself? There’s a how to at the same site!!
Q. In general, what challenges does growing in an urban environment pose and how can these be overcome?
A. Incredible Edible is really not just about food but about bringing communities together over the one thing that we all need where ever we live-food!! We are all spinning 3 plates, community, learning and business and supporting the local economy as well as local food by keeping these plates spinning. We believe that by the power of small actions being undertaken by the entire community, we will make a kinder future through food, and will make the change we all want to see.
Q. What can we do to get more people into growing in urban environments?
A. There are no more challenges to growing in an urban environment than anywhere else really although the perception is that there will be. By ensuring that spaces are well designed with the group making the garden, that there is planting appropriate to the space and the group, there are very few issues at all. There is the increased risk of damage but in reality over 36 gardens we have only ever had 2 issues.
Of course the biggest perceived challenge is that there is no land in cities but in reality there is something that can be grown in all spaces and by using those small, unloved and lost spaces we find that there is plenty of land available that not only are we making productive, but also improving by making beautiful which we see as equally as important.
Q. What advice would you give to someone who lives in the big city who is thinking about growing?
A. If someone wants to get into growing in an urban environment I would say find your nearest community garden and get involved, be it an Incredible Edible group or a closed garden. You’ll learn loads, make friends and learn what your options are if you decide you want to do more.
Q. If money and time were no object how would you green up our grey cities?
A. If there were no financial issues I would say we should look at Singapore for inspiration and then talk to our communities and ask how they want the urban realm to look. If people are part of the decision making they will feel ownership and the changes will be welcomed and a success. If we want people to get out and volunteer to make change, we have to allow them to have a voice!! I also think it’s very interesting that Singapore spends more on horticulture every year than it does on defence (and it has a large defence budget) but the changes being made to everyday living through horticulture are extraordinary.
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