An organisation set-up last year to create a network of local food production sites is already making a difference.
Volunteers from Abundant Borders are working to develop community gardens, growing local produce that will help ensure people have access to fresh, healthy and nutritious food.
Karen Birch, volunteer, said: “What we are creating is a series of food production sites across the Borders to help people to become more confident about growing their own food with the intention of making some inroads into food security.”
The group currently has four project sites, two in Eyemouth and one in Ayton, Berwickshire, as well as one in Hawick.
It is now focusing on setting up a Good Food Hub in Berwickshire to support communities and local food businesses to grow, source, cook and eat local food.
Community gardens bring together partners, volunteers, trainees and communities.
In Hawick, Abundant Borders is collaborating with The Salvation Army to turn the waste ground behind the Community Store in the High Street into a productive food forest garden.
“We are working in partnership with the Salvation Army as a direct contact to those in the town and immediate area who are using the food banks,” said Karen.
“Those using the food banks will be offered fresh produce grown in the garden immediately behind the retail premises.
“We have cleared some ground and have trees ready to go in and wild flowers.”
Abundant Borders has just opened up two training courses in Hawick thanks to financial support from Awards for All and the courses are already almost fully booked. The first teaches people how to grow the food, the second gives tips on cooking it.
“We are working in partnership with the Community Hub to employ a sessional worker to deliver healthy cooking and healthy eating initiatives in the town,” explained Karen.
“In addition, we will share knowledge and experience in helping to grow the community garden space at The Hub.”
Volunteers don’t see food banks as the way to address the root cause of hunger. Instead, they want to develop a series of good food hubs where people can be supported to grow and cook affordable meals from fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
Their first community garden was in Ayton, where Berwickshire Housing Association gave them an uncultivated plot on the edge of a larger piece of land which will eventually be developed for housing.
The first permaculture course – sustainable food production working in harmony with the landscape – was held there in January/February last year and, by the end of the growing season, the community plot had an abundance of kale, potatoes, herbs, flowers, salads and fruit trees.
Again working with Berwickshire Housing Association, Abundant Borders took a small piece of garden ground at the Linkim Court sheltered housing complex in Eyemouth and developed raised beds.
The garden areas are now more accessible, lower maintenance, attract more butterfly and birds and are able to provide herbs for cooking. They also now grow strawberries, herbs, perennial salads and flowers.
A piece of land behind the Berwickshire Association of Voluntary Service’s Eyemouth premises is pretty unprepossessing at the moment but given a touch of Abundant Borders magic it will soon be producing good food too.
“We are all volunteers,” said Karen, “so partnership work is very important.
“We could have opted for one large central community garden but we felt that we needed to be in the communities and accessible.”
There are many reasons why Abundant Borders’ approach is the right one.
Community growing has many benefits ranging from increased health and well-being to reducing inequalities.
Home-grown and community grown produce contributes to the local economy and communities learn about seasonal and local food.
Projects also help to address issues of social isolation by creating open spaces where people get to know one another and start to take pride in, and shape, their community.
From a small piece of land in Ayton, Abundant Borders want to see community gardens across the Borders, each developing into a Good Food Hub to support people in growing and cooking affordable meals from fresh, locally sourced ingredients.