Our interview with Capital Growth
We spoke to the great people at Capital Growth, London’s food growing network with over 2,000 members, about what they do and how to get involved. They strive to get everyone growing, no matter where they work, what they do or their age. Take a look at our interview with them below.
Looking at gardening projects with Capital Growth
1. As London’s largest food growing network, you work with over 2,000 gardens across the city. Where are most of your gardens concentrated?
Our member gardens can be found in all of London’s 33 boroughs – there is probably one near you! You can check the Capital Growth garden map to find your closest food garden. The map also highlights the spaces that need volunteers (in red), and you can contact these directly if you feel like getting your hands dirty!
2. As part of your work, you offer access to discounted training. What kind of training is involved in this scheme?
We offer a wide range of training to help people grow food in London. We currently focus on 4 different subjects:
- ‘Urban Food Growing’ covers key elements of urban growing like ‘growing autumn and winter veg’, ‘seed saving’ and ‘managing an orchard’
- ‘Growing enterprise sessions’ help growers who are interested in selling their food or develop enterprising ideas in their garden, such as ’Relish your harvest: how to make pickles, jam and preserves’ and ‘Pop-up pickle: kimchi time’
- ‘Getting children growing’ focuses on supporting adults that are willing to work with children in the garden, both in and outside of school
- ‘Grow for it sessions’ cover unusual subjects around food-growing and sustainability like ‘Aquaponics for beginners’, ‘Flax workshop: from linseed to thread’ and ‘Beauty products from your garden’. Our sessions take place across 6 locations in London and start at £10 for Capital Growth members for 2.5 hours. See them all here.
3. Part of your work involves working with members to share stories about how the work they are doing is improving community health. How many different ways have these projects helped improve community health?
Following on from the initial work of Capital Growth, Sustain also runs a national project called Growing Health with Garden Organic. Growing Health is looking at how community food growing can be routinely used by the health service as a way of promoting health and wellbeing. This includes a series of case studies across the UK which highlight the initiatives that are used by different groups to provide opportunities for exercise, to address physical and mental problems, to encourage social interaction and to develop skills, while also providing access to fresh, local fruit and vegetables.
4. Every spring you run an event called The Big Dig where volunteers help out at local community gardens. How many volunteers would you say have then gone on to be more of an active part of their local garden?
During the Big Dig, hundreds of volunteers lend a hand in community food growing gardens across London and beyond. In 2016, over 500 volunteers helped out 49 different gardens in London, 200 of which were visiting the garden for the first time. Based on feedback from those who took part, we estimate that about 50% of those visitors return to the garden after the Big Dig to volunteer with the project again. At Capital Growth’s show garden in the Regent’s Park, two of our long-term volunteers joined us through an initial visit during The Big Dig, with one now having moved into full-time employment with a gardening company. We’re also thrilled that so many visitors during The Big Dig are newcomers as it means more and more people are gaining an interest in food growing and in helping out in their local community.
5. Alongside Capital Growth, you also run a London Grows buddy scheme for communities and schools where people can receive practical advice and support on improving their garden. What sort of advice do you provide, and how regularly?
The London Grows buddy scheme aims to provide a peer mentoring service for school and community gardens. Buddies are trained in site assessment and mentorship, wildlife-friendly growing principles, growing effectively and working with schools. They are then matched with a garden in their area to visit at least twice during the year to offer support. Capital Growth has also created two toolkits for their use, Grow More Food about how to maximise yields, and London Grows Wild about wildlife-friendly growing in the city. These toolkits offer practical assessments and actions for buddies to talk through with gardens about how they’d like to change the growing space. The programme just started this summer with 13 buddies supporting an initial group of 20 gardens.