Words by Smiley Team
In May 2022, an initiative sprouted in southeast London led by services manager Andrea Ingrassia, to help families with young children grow food. He employed Fred Hoad, a seasoned gardener and holistic designer, who visited estates in Peckham to teach parents about sustainable food growing techniques.
Grow Your Own started as a small project as part of the family support offered by Peckham, Peckham Rye and Nunhead Children and Family Centres.
What began in one estate quickly blossomed as word spread and nearby communities approached the eco-minded duo asking for similar projects in their own estates.
“Grow Your Own is important because it allows people to save a bit of money and a bit of the planet by planting their own food,” Fred tells Smiley News.
Andrea adds: “I think this project gives the message that if every one of us does a little bit maybe we can change things for the better.”
In a courtyard surrounded by tower blocks, Fred started by installing wooden planters he had built entirely from natural materials. In each one, locals could cultivate greens, fruits and vegetables to feed whoever chose to tend and harvest the garden.
Families gathered to hear how to grow food in sustainable ways as well as how to produce compost and mulch. They discussed ways they could create a green space and food source in their home, whether it be in a garden, a balcony, a windowsill or a terrace. Then the parents and children got stuck in, digging the soil, planting seedlings and piling mulch around them till they had their own plot of food growing.
“Soon, people from another estate called us because they wanted to do the same,” says Andrea. “We had some money left over from the Community Lottery Fund, so we decided to build planters on their estate too.
"Then people from yet another estate approached us and we realised that the word was spreading and people were getting really interested.”
After building planters and raised gardens across a number of neighbourhoods in southeast London, Andrea and Fred hope to work with communities to maintain the gardens so that they continue to yield food. They intend to set up management committees to run the gardens and ensure their upkeep, while Fred will continue to support the budding gardeners.
JOIN IN: To learn how to grow your own food in southeast London, come along to one of the upcoming Grow Your Own workshops. Find further details via Peckham, Peckham Rye and Nunhead Children and Family Centres.