We sat down with Lucy, Managing Director of GROW, for an exclusive look into what happened in 2021, Christmas traditions at the GROW farm and exciting plans for 2022.
How does Grow round off the year?
Our programmes are primarily outdoor-focused, so with shorter days and colder weather, things quieten down around this time of year. We are an agro-ecological farm growing only seasonal produce using organic principles, so most of the beds are covered up for the winter to protect the soil. The beds still in operation are mostly brassica beds growing cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower and we also have beetroots, rainbow chard and radishes. Even eggs are seasonal, so our chickens don’t lay so many in the winter months. The bees are all tucked away in their hives for the winter. In line with the sustainable bee-keeping model that we use, we don’t harvest any honey or interfere with the bees at all, allowing them to feed off their honey and survive the winter.
Does Grow have any Christmas traditions?
This Christmas, we have used our produce to make loads of courgette chutney and beetroot pickle that we will be selling at local Christmas markets, along with our dried flowers and winter bulb pots. It’s all about seasonality; whatever the time of year, there’s always something to be grown. Hardy herbs, winter salads, rainbow chard, the possibilities are endless. We have a weekly stall that will sell our produce until it runs out around late December. Then in the new year, we turn our attention to fundraising as people set themselves fitness challenges to raise money for charity.
What has changed at Grow Farm this year?
So much has changed at the farm this year! We’re preparing two large field beds within our crop rotation plan that will be ready for 2022. We now have 40,000 bees in 4 Warre hives. We’ve built our community woodland area perfect for hosting events or for the kids to sit when they are writing or drawing. We have a new polytunnel which is moveable, so is very handy. We are developing agro-forestry strips, a technique that adds to the biodiversity of the soil by planting rows of trees in between each bed. They’ll be nut and fruit trees, which will be new additions to the kid’s learning programme. We also launched our veg box scheme for local families to access a low carbon footprint, healthy, organic foods. Our staggered pricing system means that those who can pay 20% more so that those on lower incomes can pay 20% less. We are aiming to triple the number of veg boxes we create next year.
What does Grow hope to accomplish next year with the support of Nuzest?
Next year we are planning to train lots more facilitators in our “Grow” ethos. We adopt a particular style of holistic teaching with a mindful, observational approach to how we structure sessions. We are pupil-led, and we begin each lesson with a breathing exercise to help focus the class. We have been delighted with Nuzest’s support of our after-school programme which has been hugely popular. It’s been a great additional access point for disadvantaged young people to come and learn about sustainable food growing. Our waiting list for this programme was huge, but with Nuzest’s help, we have secured the right equipment, GROW facilitators and farm infrastructure to accommodate as many young people as possible.
The mushroom cultivation academy has been one of the most exciting outcomes of Nuzest’s support. We are piloting the UK’s first AQA in Mushroom Cultivation and Enterprise with 7 disadvantaged young people at risk of NEET, who are thriving having been given the opportunity to focus their attention on such an interesting and ground-breaking subject. It’s unbelievable how little we know about how integral mushrooms are to the ecosystem as well as their medicinal properties. Despite challenges, we have had a fantastic year at Grow Farm and can’t wait to kick off 2022 with the same momentum.
Find out more at www.wearegrow.org