Food Growing - Edible Estates 12: Step by Step Guide - Section 2

5) Identify funding  

Establishing a food growing project doesn’t have to be expensive but you will need to think about how the basics, tools and materials, water and insurance, will be provided. Is there any internal funding available or can time and resources be provided in kind by partners, contractors, corporate volunteers, the probation service or staff?  

If planning permission is required, how will the fees be paid? Who will undertake preparation of the application, submit it to the Council and attend any necessary meetings? Are there community members who can apply their skills to produce the materials necessary for planning permission? Will expertise need to be bought in?  

There are a number of funding sources available for food growing projects. These range from Trust funders to local government and the EU. Often there are small pots of funding available locally or you can get materials (compost, manure, building materials) for free. Residents are often keen to be actively involved in identifying project needs and can be effective in sourcing free materials. Furthermore, as the case studies in this guidance illustrate food growing projects can deliver substantial cost benefits to housing associations. In order to better map these you may wish to use a Social Return On Investment (SROI) tool.  

On the Green Square Group’s Triangle Development, SROI tools identified savings from water management and food growing schemes at £750 per resident per anum. The approximate average cost per household of the Bedroom Tax is £728 per anum.

6) Think about the design

Ensure the layout of the space meets the needs of the users. A well designed space is critical to making sure the space is effectively used. You may wish to involve an external designer. When starting a project, key considerations include:

  • Access: will the spaces between and height of food growing plots (raised beds) allow for people of all ages and abilities to take part?
  • Integrating existing features: for example, can a wall be fitted with a trellis and used to grow climbing plants?
  • Environmental impacts: can the garden waste be composted to reduce waste disposal or can rain water be collected to reduce demand for a fixed water supply?   

7) Work with the local community

Assist the growers group in developing a structure that works for them, this could be a traditional chair and officers (secretary, treasurer) or a flat structure with rotating responsibilities. It might be useful to get the group to do a skills audit and draft a constitution or mission statement and agree ground rules. Developing or ensuring there are good project management skills within the group will ensure that they can take more ownership of the process.

Support them to create a project timetable and schedule. Set up regular meetings (monthly/bi-monthly or whatever works best for the users) to share information about gardening, make decisions related to management of the growing space and to discuss upcoming events. This can be based around practical activities in the garden too, so as to encourage those who are not keen on traditional meetings. Develop short-, medium-, and long-term goals.

Start the project in a way that is appropriate for the community. It might be best to start small, or have some temporary beds to see how things go for the first season. You also might want to consider a mix of allocated and communal beds. Also, find creative and practical ways to get residents interested and involved, remembering that food growing has wide intergenerational and cultural interest.

Support the group to have a wider communication strategy that involves those who cannot attend meetings. This can include a notice board in the garden, a phone tree and/or e-mail list, a newsletter and/or use of social media (like a Facebook page).

8) Launch the project

Getting everything on site is a big occasion. Naming a day and getting lots of people down to help is a great way to give the project a buzz. It can raise the profile of the project locally. If your organisation has a press, public affairs or publicity team you may wish to discuss the launch with them. MPs, Councillors, and other local dignitaries are often keen to attend such events.

9)  Think about on-going support

It is also useful to have workshops at regular intervals (weekly, monthly, etc) to help the group to form and develop the skills it needs. Subjects to cover include:

  • How to create a gardening group with regular volunteer days
  • Making a schedule of what is going on planting and growing cycles
  • Seasonal produce
  • Maintaining soil quality
  • Cookery skills - how to cook produce grown on site

10) Ensure adequate maintenance provision:

Good quality maintenance is crucial to the success of a growing space. There are a number of ways that you can give the garden a good chance:

  • Hosting weekly maintenance days in the garden
  • Holding annual events to invigorate the garden
  • Encouraging winter growing and other non-summer activities
  • Promoting the garden space
  • Introducing an allocation system if communal growing is not successful

While community members will often provide the majority of the maintenance, particular consideration should be given to how maintenance will be assured if:

Key participants move away, or are no longer able to contribute their time or if adverse weather conditions mean that regular gardeners are less likely to be outdoors (particularly if your food growing space is in an area with an older population).