Helen Stathers began work as an Social Farms & Gardens (then the 'Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens') fieldworker in Hull five years ago. Back then the community growing movement in the city consisted of relatively small, isolated groups. Helen set up a community growing network so these local groups could start to exchange ideas and knowledge. Two larger networks – Green Share and Food 4 Hull - have since developed from it.
SF&G also provided travel bursaries that allowed groups to visit other projects to get inspiration and advice to develop their sites.
One of the beneficiaries of this SF&G work is Bryony Macfadyen, a gardener and member of the Hull network who has taken part in SF&G training and site visits. She works for Green Prosperity, a lottery-funded project which aims to improve quality of life through sustainable living, including helping families to grow their own food. Bryony said:
“As a gardener I rarely get to meet other people involved in growing projects, especially in really busy times like summer. The network means we get to share ideas of what people are doing and improve the work we do. It's also massively improved our orchard. SF&G organised a specialist pruning and grafting event that linked us up with the Northern Fruit Group – I didn’t even know they existed and they've been really good."
The skills learned at the grafting workshop were then passed on to the Green Prosperity volunteers, many of whom are working towards horticultural qualifications and are now acting as mentors to families who want to start growing in their own gardens.
Helen Stathers said: "It's just bloomed. It's really the people of Hull who have taken everything forward, I've just helped link people up. There are two key things I can offer as part of FCFCG (SF&G) - I have visited a lot of community growing projects so I have good knowledge of what's going on in the area and beyond. Also I know what it's like to be on the inside of a project but I can offer objective advice to other people.'"
Meanwhile, the latest development in Hull is one of the most innovative and ambitious. Hull Mobile City Farm is both a unique design concept and a reaction to the fact that little permanent land is available for city farming in Hull.
The mobile farm would be set up as a ‘meanwhile’ plot on a development site in Hull city centre and could be moved when the developer needs to regain the site. Formed of shipping containers, the box farm is likely to include polytunnels, a moveable pig pen and a café and shop.
The idea was first raised as part of the Hull City Plan, with the aim of helping to address food poverty and promote health and well-being.
SF&G has been involved from the start, contributing expert input to plans and undertaking a feasibility study.
The Community Land Advisory Service (CLAS), a project managed by SF&G to help in land and lease issues, has also been involved. CLAS advisors have helped in the search for land and giving guidance to the farm group who are about to sign a lease for the project.