You reap what you sow in community project

From a simple dream of growing their own veg, a handful of Shettleston residents dug in, creating allotments that now benefit the whole community.

Marion Bate, the project co-ordinator, explains how it got off the ground in Glasgow.

How did the Shettleston Community Growing Project get started?

It was 2009 and a group of half a dozen locals wanted to grow their own food but there were no allotment spaces . So they approached Shettleston Housing Association (SHA) and asked if there was any land they could use. SHA only had a small area where a building used to be – it had no soil on it. But the Scottish Government had funding available for projects to reduce your carbon footprint, so SHA helped the group to apply for funds to build raised beds and to pay for a member of staff who would work part-time for a year to guide them through the process, oversee the build and help bring in more people.

Is that how you got involved?

I saw the job advert but I was just about to turn 60 and thought, they’re going to think I’m daft if I apply! But I have a background in community development work and I’d also turned an unused, overgrown plot into my own fully functioning allotment, so I had some experience.

How has the project transformed the community?

It’s amazing how it has grown in such a short space of time and how many people have got involved. We’ve got a greenhouse group and a hedge-growers’ group, and a Smelly Welly Club for the children. We’ve added another bit of land and now work on other sites in the city. The change to the environment has been great but it is the people who really benefit. Some come to grow their own food, while others volunteer and help maintain the community garden. They get fresh air and exercise, and are making new friends. Two young lads who did well with the labour side of the volunteering were encouraged to go to college a couple of years ago and they’ve now graduated. The BBC is filming a programme on what we’re doing for kids from low-income families.

What do you think has been the greatest benefit?

The fact that the project is cross-generational and therapeutic. One of our volunteers was quite ill and in hospital a lot. He’s now well and back at work, and I recently heard him chatting to another guy, telling him that when he was ill he still helped to water the plants. He considers this an important part of his rehabilitation.

Has the project had a special focus this year?

We applied for funding for a new part-time children’s and family worker. He has been with us for a couple of months now and it is amazing. The mums are bringing the kids, who are doing a lot of voluntary work. At the end of the session they all stay for a game of football. Why do you think the project has been such a success? I think the main reason is because this is not about one person or just those who volunteer, it’s about the whole community. There is a real community spirit here and that is what makes this place so

(This feature was originally published in 2015)