A market leader
Edinburgh’s Broomhouse Market Garden is an impressive community project by any standards. It offers volunteering, training and work experience opportunities for retired and unemployed people, whilst establishing a vibrant market garden farm which supports a local ‘food hub’ and helps nearby good causes.
The Broomhouse area was built between 1947 and 1950 and lies in the south west of the city. You may well have spied it from the tram or train; it occupies a spot north of the line at Saughton.
It’s an area with economic challenges and the aspirations of this project, which is linked to the popular and successful Broomhouse Hub, are to deliver tangible local benefits in an area where opportunities have been traditionally limited.
The project came into being on the back of a health assessment carried out in the area in 2009 which suggested that a Community Health Hub providing daily health drop-in sessions, cooking on a low budget classes, exercise opportunities, and walking groups would be a desirable shift in local emphasis.
A door-to-door survey amongst residents followed and from this potential sites were identified which would work best for the neighbourhood. A sense of urgency emerged that suggested a strong and resilient community could be forged using greenspaces and food as key elements.
Helene van der Ploeg is central to operations at Broomhouse and very optimistic about the future. “Early signs are very encouraging. The garden has provided food for monthly, soon to be fortnightly, community meals, so called Broomie Banquets. We have also been providing food for community meals held on a Friday at WHALE Arts Centre in nearby Wester Hailes. It is worth noting that what’s left is given to good causes such as the local food bank.
“Two of the community gardeners at Broomhouse volunteer in the kitchen for the Broomie Banquets. They are local residents who as well as learning about growing food want to understand how to prepare and cook their own produce – a great example of the field to fork ethos! Other Broomhouse gardeners regularly attend meals, engaging with other guests from the local community and forging really important connections and friendships with local residents.
“The gardeners are all local and formed the Broomhouse Growers Association. Working in partnership with Space (the charity that manages and runs the Broomhouse Hub) and South West Edible Estates they have shown enormous energy and drive. Space was able to offer additional support from our construction contractors, Grahams, who helped prepare the ground work for the raised beds and install of the fencing. But it was the Growers Association who pushed things over the finishing line.”
The challenge of creating a market garden from scratch shouldn’t be underestimated. Helene and Broomhouse Chief Executive, Bridie Ashrowan, are quick to point out that the team here have worked through all weathers to dig over the ground, lay the frames for the beds, build the shed and at the time of writing were constructing poly tunnels. They may be a small team but are extremely committed to the project.
A Community Garden is a fabulous resource on so many different levels. At Broomhouse examples are easy to find. There have been visits by members of the local dementia lunch club. The garden offers a safe space for people with issues such as mental health problems and learning difficulties and it brings people together whilst tackling social isolation. Gardening workshops have benefitted the Kitchen Training Academy and students on the Superfoodies programme have been helped by the quick progress the Broomhouse Growers made.
“As the climate crisis conversation gathers momentum this project in a very small way highlights what can be achieved through motivating a community,” said Helene. “By taking communal land that would otherwise be destined to go under tarmac, we are providing space for friendships and bonds to be made, reducing food poverty through the production of food, increasing skills and knowledge for people to be able to feed themselves in a healthy way, helping biodiversity and creating an intergenerational space which has the capacity to welcome people irrespective of race, culture, gender or age.”
That’s a positive note to end on. Although at Broomhouse you get the feeling the story is very much in its early stages. Watch this space in south west Edinburgh, great things are happening and the bar has been set pretty high!
Quote … Unquote
‘For me it was about wanting to play an active part in the community I live in and a genuine desire to learn how to grow veg. It gets me out of bed on a Saturday morning (usually!) and it has been great to meet new folk and to see how quickly what looked like wasteland being transformed in to an area that produces food for us and the community meal.’
‘A real sense of community involvement with the rewards of seeing the process through from planting to harvesting. With the produce being used within the local community it brings great satisfaction that what your involved in is making a difference.’
‘I always loved growing my own vegetables & I also wanted to contribute to the community & learn more about gardening. I've always volunteered for different things and I love it so much.’
Broomhouse is an example of our Green Infrastructure Community Engagement work. The charity that manages and runs the Broomhouse Centre is known as SPACE, you can find out more about them at http://www.spacescot.org/