Sheffield community growing project faces threat from developers

A community vegetable growing project in Sheffield is under threat from developers and must find a new home by the new year.

Thursday, 2nd December 2021, 10:04 am
Sharon, a volunteer with some of the fresh vegetables grown by the group.

Kenwood Community Growers, a volunteer led organic vegetable growing project established in spring 2019 in the grounds of Kenwood Hall Hotel, produces high quality fresh food for the city.

The food is picked and delivered to the Food Works kitchen in Sharrow during the growing season, forming part of a network across Sheffield aiming to create sustainable, organic growing as part of the supply chain.

Now the group’s work threatened by moves to develop the site and the growers have been asked to leave by the end of December, but have been unable to find an alternative site to continue.

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Kenwood Community Growers is a volunteer led organisation which focuses on sustainable growing.

Sharon Watson, Kenwood Community Growers spokesperson and volunteer, said: “Every single suitable piece of land across the city needs to be part of the solution to solving the City’s increasing threat from an insecure food supply, with the strain being added to by the ongoing Covid pandemic and numerous supply issues caused by Brexit.

"The Kenwood Community Growers’ site has a long history of food production; for many years it served as the hotel kitchen garden and it was subsequently used as a growing space by students of Freeman College. Now a perfect urban growing space which directly benefits people experiencing food poverty in the local community is under threat from an executive housing development.

“It would be blooming inconvenient and almost impossible to start again. The problem is finding a site in an appropriate growing area. The site we have at the moment is perfect, we are lucky in that respect. We are putting a big shout out to anybody that has land that is suitable for growing veg.”

By reducing the need for transportation, storage and artificial ways to preserve food over time, the group are an important part of this local initiative which aims to dramatically lower the impact food production has on the environment.

The garden is under threat from developers and may have to find an alternative site by the end of the year.

The project is run solely by volunteers, with more than 50 members of the local community getting involved. It has attracted funding from the Co-op Community Fund and the Charles Dowding Foundation which has enabled the project to provide practical workshops to teach organic growing skills to people in the community.

Donations of resources and practical support from local community members and start-up funding by the Nether Edge Neighbourhood Group have also allowed their work to take place.

One volunteer said: “Food Works is a giant jigsaw puzzle; its work in the city is big. The Kenwood Community Growers work as a part of a network that springs in many places in the city. Changes to the garden impact on more than itself.

“Through growing things together over time friendships grow, a sense of community appears. During our time there we've had to build, shift soil, make beds, plant, water, harvest, all these things with the minimum amount of money and that made us feel together even more. The garden has grownall about us and is due to the skill of people from all walks of life.”

The Growers are concerned that it would be almost impossible to restart their operation in a new location.

The project has sparked other initiatives, including the development of the Food Works Farm at Manor and outreach with communities on the Lansdowne and Leverton Estates. The garden has also been the inspiration for art works and creative endeavours by our volunteers and members of the community.

Sharon said: “There is a really big impetus in the city for organisations like Regather and Food Works to look at how we can grow less food, how we can import less and also make sure that food that is organic and healthy isn’t a luxury.

“Over the years the government has recognised there needs to be a bit of a revolution in how we grow and how we supply food, or we just won’t be able to keep up with demand.”

The site which is now under threat has been developed through the hard work of the volunteers, with several large beds installed so that crops can be rotated, and fruit bushes, apple and cherry trees established.

The Kenwood Community Growers are part of a network of sustainable growers across the city.

Sharon added: “We work in harmony with the wildlife, using no chemicals and creating our own compost. We have developed a wild flower border which provides nectar and pollen for insects. We hugely value the Garden as a refuge for many species of bird, insects and mammals.

“The impact of the project is more than just a few people growing veg. Having that presence in the local community is helping to raise awareness of sustainable food growing. We are able to plug into a wider network. It makes way more difference to people in Sheffield than executive homes that will probably cost about £1 million each.”

The Growers want to ensure that organic and healthy food is not a luxury item.