From garden to plate – how to be self-sufficient

Graham Bell at home in Coldstream in his garden.
Graham Bell at home in Coldstream in his garden.

A new locally-based charity is offering Borderers struggling to gain adequate nutrition the knowledge and the opportunity to grow and cook their own fresh produce.

Armed with the recognition that the provision of food banks shows that many families do not have access to fresh vegetables and fruit, Abundant Borders this week welcomed grant funding as part of the Scottish Government Good Food Nation Fund.

It is hoped to trial the project in Berwickshire before spreading throughout the Borders region.

Charity administrator Anne Casey said: “We are extremely grateful to the Scottish Government’s Good Food Fund for providing financial support for this project.

“Food Banks are generally only able to offer dried or tinned food as they do not have the resources to offer perishable goods.

“Our idea was that long-term solutions require much better engagement with people who find themselves in need of this support.

“Working over the last year, we have identified over a dozen sites across the Borders where people can be trained in the skills of growing and cookery, and land can be made available to them. Starting in Eastern Berwickshire, our first trial aims to spark a Borders wide movement to help individuals and groups set this imbalance to rights.”

The group has attracted support from private garden and estate owners who are willing to offer land for the project.

Larger organisations, including Berwickshire Housing Association and The Salvation Army are also supportive.

Berwickshire Housing Association chief executive Helen Forsyth said: “With Abundant Borders, we hope to see community orchards, allotments, joint projects between older tenants and younger volunteers and opportunities for many members of village communities to get involved in growing food, gardening and improving health and well-being.”

And local author and trainer Graham Bell, of Coldstream, said: “Anyone can end up on the wrong side of opportunity for a variety of reasons.

“Some fall into gaps in the benefits system, some have not yet found their way in the world of work or have had health or social challenges.

“We are offering folks the opportunity to take up funded places to train on a part-time basis, to build their own confidence and self-reliance.”

Graham, who runs courses on permaculture, forest gardening and food preservation, added: “You can’t get far in life without adequate good food, and we believe it is basic social justice to make sure it’s available to all.

“Community Allotments are one example of how we can get together and improve all our lives.

“Our small starting point is an open door for those who want to access the service, but also for volunteers who’d like to help out.

“We welcome contact from skilled people with a little time on their hands who’d enjoy mucking in alongside trainees to help the project forwards.”

Abundant Borders is hosting a public launch event in Eyemouth on Tuesday, January 10.