Blogs >> How much food do we grow at the College? - Bethan Stagg

How much food do we grow at the College? - Bethan Stagg

Bethan StaggWe often get asked by newcomers about what we grow. Some people think we grow all our own produce, whilst some think we just grow a few herbs. Today I have been immersing myself in numbers to find some answers. I am inspired and amazed to discover that this year we have grown over 4,900 kg of vegetables and fruit, more than a whole metric or imperial ton! That means we grow about 20% of the vegetables consumed in the College, a real contribution to our food security and nourishment.

When I started in 2009 as the garden instructor, food growing was just beginning to unfurl at the College. With the help of sustainable horticulture students, our regular Wwoofer and a variety of college community volunteers, we were growing 10% of the College’s vegetables by 2011. The early years were spent weeding and planting in the forest gardens, pruning the new orchard on the front lawn and creating more ‘no dig’ vegetable beds in the back garden. The polytunnel was cleared and new propagation benches installed. A quest to dissuade ground elder from the herb garden began. Compost bays cropped up like mushrooms (so did edible mushrooms).

But it was in January 2013, when Jane Gleeson and Jane Pickard tripled the horticulture staff that food growing really took off. Windbreaks were planted around the new field. Three additional polytunnels, a sizeable wildlife pond, composting areas and new vegetable garden followed. A team of chickens are now happily resident in the cottage garden. The energy of all who have been involved in this transformation, staff, students and volunteers is a real demonstration of how we can take control of our local food systems and enjoy the process too.

What is really important about food growing at the College is what we grow. We don’t just grow vegetables; we grow future garden teachers, smallholders and change makers. The crops we grow aren’t just potatoes and carrots; we experiment with novel and perennial crops and cropping systems. Some of the more unusual meals at the College this year featured lovage and sorrel quiches, the chokeberry chutney (nicer than they sound), steamed perennial cabbage and wild garlic bread.

Would you like to join this learning journey in human-scale, ecological food systems?

Click here to find out more about our Apprenticeships in Sustainable Horticulture.
Click here to find out more about our Post-graduate Programme in Sustainable Horticulture and Food Production.

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