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The Green Patch – The Kettering Food Festival, where the community is its beating heart

Posted on 18 July 2017

I had the great pleasure of visiting the Green Patch on 15 July 2017. A Groundwork initiative to turn a forgotten 2-acre allotment plot into a thriving, friendly, community based and community led space, where children, adults and people with both physical and learning difficulties share in the joy of gardening. 

I knew as soon as we turned into the car park from the brightly painted sign and scores of people from the local community that this was going to be an experience that I would never forget. Many of the children who visit, especially during the summer holidays, go into a nutritional decline because families cannot afford to pay for fresh produce, but the Green Patch teaches children that growing your own is easy, fun to do and of course results in a nutritional meal which the staff and volunteers cook every Tuesday. Raised beds are filled with towering sunflowers, carrots, tomatoes and chard.

The bees knees 

A mini orchard provides apples and soft fruit, while the poly tunnels provide shelter on rainy days for community activities. A wildlife pond, long grass areas a bee garden and bee hives teaches children and adults the importance that wildlife has on our crops and flowers – I look forward to tasting the first lot of honey from the newly installed hives.

It was bustling with people, from toddlers to the elderly. Tempting smells from the food stalls were enticing people to taste things that perhaps they had never tasted before. I succumbed to a Moroccan flat bread filled with falafel, a blueberry flapjack, and honey and raisin flapjack. As Kate Williams, Groundwork Northamptonshire's Operations Director and Tony Robbs, Groundwork Northamptonshire's Chairman, showed us around it was great to see everyone enjoying themselves. For a couple of hours, the community was engaging with each other, smiling, tucking into wonderful food and ice cream. 

For a couple of hours, the community was engaging with each other, smiling, tucking into wonderful food and ice cream. The large marquee had presentations inside on 'what not to put down the toilet, and what should go into the bin', to a veggie chef showing what can be cooked with vegetables such as beetroot, and sweet potatoes, to some of the children’s groups led by Sue McKay, Environmental Project Officer.

What a waste!

We were then led; pass the singer, through a long poly tunnel to the Junk Food Café, where unwanted food from supermarkets is turned into wonderful, nutritious food, for a small donation. I chatted with one of the volunteers who told me that they get a staggering one tonne of food per week, which would otherwise end up in the landfill. She informed me that if a single bag of sugar, for example, on a pallet piled with sugar, has been ripped, the supermarket will bin the entire pallet, as it is cheaper to do this than get someone in, wrap up the torn bag of sugar, clean the area, and then get put back onto a forklift to its final spot. This is disgusting – so much food is being wasted, and it just goes to show how much markup there is on food if such a thing can take place, and apparently so easily.

Even bottles of water that have come out of a pack of water are sent to landfill because the individual bottles cannot be sold on. I had a very tasty potato salad, rainbow salad with beetroot, carrots and onion and the softest, most delicious banana bread I have ever tasted.

Pockets of possibilities 

There are pockets of land like the Green Patch across the whole of the UK. Communities need such places to benefit from the joy of gardening, spending time together, being taught about nutrition, but more importantly for giving people a purpose. Andrew who was the first person we met, who very kindly showed us to a parking spot, volunteers three times a week. Without such an initiative by Groundwork, someone like Andrew would have nothing to do.

It was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. Volunteers stay for a long time, staff love what they do, but more importantly, the community is its beating heart.

Post by Mark Lane, Health, Wellbeing and Community Ambassador

Groundwork UK