Reaping the benefits in Moray

REAP, which stands for Rural Environmental Action Project, works in the North East of Scotland to raise environmental awareness, tackle economic inequality and engage in social enterprise. SF&G spoke to Ann Davidson, who has been part of this longstanding initiative for nearly 20 years.

“REAP works with individuals, communities, organisations and schools helping them to set up growing spaces to sow, grow and celebrate locally grown food. We work on numerous sites across Moray.

“One of our most successful projects is Maryhill Therapeutic Gardens at Elgin GP Practice. We hold weekly volunteering sessions and regular events at Maryhill. Participants can be referred by their GP, Social Worker, SAMH (Scotland Adult Mental Health Service) or our local cancer care charity – or they can self-refer.

“Participants join in tasks to grow fruit and vegetables for giving out at events or can take them home themselves. There is a variety of raised beds, including wheelchair accessible ones, edible hedges, fruit trees and allotment style beds. It’s a lovely spot on the site of a former walled garden. The old wall abuts a beautiful woodland footpath along the Lossie River, but unfortunately doesn’t present much of a barrier to the local deer who hop over for a snack whenever they are passing!

“We have another project at Cooper Park with growing beds outside the library. We worked with the council to clear the site and have planted all sorts of edible plants – fruit bushes, vegetables and herbs. We have bi-monthly planning and gardening sessions. These are open to all and everyone gets involved in planning, propagating, growing, harvesting and sharing the produce.

“We celebrate Apple Day at the Cooper Park site with an apple press for people to juice the apples, art activities and a ‘longest peel’ competition. A local plant nursery creates a pop-up orchard and there are fruit trees for sale. All the volunteers help out and the event generates lots of interest in the project.

“We hold our annual harvest day at Maryhill. Several school groups take part and we run workshops focussing on how to store produce, seed saving techniques and outdoor cooking.

Ann adds, “I’ve been doing this work for a long time now but I still feel privileged whenever I witness first hand the moment a person first sows a seed or tastes a carrot they’ve grown themselves. It’s so great to be part of a project that helps make that happen for so many people.”

Finally, what do you value about being a member of SF&G?

"Networking opportunities – we especially appreciate the efforts of the Scotland team to target events to different needs and run events in different locations. It’s great to be able to attend events near us and meet and learn from other like-minded people."

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