Growing Sustainable Communities

In May 2023 Monmouthshire Food Partnership held three community growing events across the county, in Chepstow, Usk and Monmouth. The aim was to connect and inspire communities to develop circular economies, shared growing spaces, and reduce food and green waste.

At the heart of each event was a talk or demonstration by a leading light of Monmouthshire’s sustainability movement: Arthur from The Crafty Pickle Co. gave a demonstration in making sauerkraut and kimchi to preserve seasonal vegetables and boost gut health; Cherry Taylor of the salad company Veg Out introduced the principles of No Dig gardening; and Sue Mabberley from Nant y Bedd garden talked about interesting ways to grow vegetables. These talks offered opportunities to share best practice and teach sustainable ways of growing, preparing and preserving food, and maintaining soil health and structure.

The events were supported by many partners, who gave their time generously and patiently, chatting with community members about important matters such as pesticides and fertilisers, reducing food waste, and how to make positive environmental changes.

Local producers attended the event, bringing apple juice, cider, jams, asparagus, honey, willow weaving and more. Town Councils, nurseries and local groups also came to support, looking to learn and connect with others in their communities.

The amazing teachers and pupils of the local schools helped with refreshments. Huge thanks to Overmonnow Primary School, Chepstow Primary School and Usk Primary School for their hard work, showcasing their schools’ potential for intergenerational friendships, and how the schools are reaching out to become truly community focused and develop our children as mindful citizens of the future.

The children shared their desire to be active in their communities, and to learn more about growing food and caring for the environment to help address the enormous challenges of limiting climate change and reversing biodiversity decline.

It was clear from the events that Monmouthshire is blessed with a huge range of skilled, dedicated, and passionate people of all ages and from many walks of life – and that food, gardening, and sustainability are very important to our county. Some towns and villages that did not host events this time round have come forward offering themselves as venues for the future (watch this space!), and MFP has also received requests for further help with gardening and growing, and understanding opportunities for using local varieties and seasonal planting. We have taken all this on board, and will bear it in mind as we pursue our aim to respond to the community and work with others to improve the sustainability of Monmouthshire, give people access to community growing, local and nutritious food, and build networks and partnerships which will make us all stronger going forward together.