From root to plate: setting up a community growing space amidst a pandemic
Joanna Nim-Heung Yeung created Weirhall Road Community Open Space in the heart of her neighbourhood during the first lockdown in March 2020. We sat down to talk about how the garden has supported her community by increasing space for nature connection and access to fresh produce.
Weirhall Road Community Open Space sits in an almost unnoticeable hidden strip of land bordering two neighbourhoods in Enfield and spans 25m in width and 150m in length. The new community food growing space opened its doors during the first national Covid lockdown. Founder, Joanna, transformed the unused and littered piece of land into a functioning growing space in just a matter of weeks. By April 2020, the space was already receiving seed donations and being accessed by local residents from all generations and backgrounds to learn how to grow food and spend time in the green space.
Weirhall growing site [credit: Joanna Nim-Heung Yeung]
Wierhall Road Community Open Space aims to bring the community together through knowledge of food growing. Having grown up being taught how to grow and value food by her mother, Joanna was keen to create a space which encouraged inter-generational food growing and learning, and appreciation for food.
Joanna aptly put; “People do not have to be professional food growers, but should know about how food gets from root to plate.”
The four aims of the space are:
- Community sharing of resources, time and skills
- Growing food
- Learning about sustainable living
- Promoting the adoption of a healthy lifestyle through using green spaces for improving physical, mental and social health.
Last year, the Weirhall Road community harvested 32kg worth of produce. Whilst they are not donating food, the members of the community garden are all growing a diverse variety of foods and share what they have grown with each other and their neighbours.
Despite being set up under such challenging circumstances, Weirhall have been able to actively engage community members, both physically and virtually, and now have 35 regular attendees. Organised activities have included monthly litter picking, tree planting (they received 30 donated trees), guided walks, bird watching and virtual quiz nights. On March 27, they are getting involved in Earth Hour – Switch off and Walk, encouraging community members to turn off their lights, and take an evening walk around our shared home – the Earth. The pandemic has made it difficult for community and social cohesion but Joanna has created a safe space for those who need it.
Joanna with some volunteers from the community [Credit: Joanna Nim-Heung Yeung]
As we emerge from the worst of the pandemic, Joanna has big plans for the site and already has meetings with conservation architects in the diary to plan how to make the space more biodiverse. Aspirations for the space include growing mushrooms, planting more trees, working with the local schools and raising more funds to enable the creation of a more formal, sustainable community food growing space.
Weirhall Road Community Open Space are joining the Good to Grow Day 2021 and have organised a community litter pick on April 25.
Check the nearest community growing space in your area and join the Good to Grow Day by visiting the Good to Grow map.
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Capital Growth is a project of Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming.