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'Patchwork farms' boost local communities

Words by Smiley Team

A food collective has received funding to empower food growers to lead new urban micro-farm spaces across the local area to create a ‘patchwork farm’.

Custom Food Lab is a collective of people including artists, designers, researchers, growers, and activists who are passionate about where food comes from and how it’s grown.

The group have been awarded a grant of £5,000 from Kent Community Foundation to kickstart a district wide ‘Patchwork Farm’. A ‘patchwork farm’ would be a collective growing effort where every available scrap of land in an area has food growing.

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“In the UK, many poor urban neighbourhoods have become food retailing deserts, where access to good food shops and markets is rare," says Cherry Truluck-Halpin from Custom Food Lab, referencing an NFA report on food growing within cities.

"We have lost contact with the land and with the way food is produced. This is absolutely the case for the most deprived areas of Folkestone (Kent), but our community is resourceful and creative - we wanted to inspire people to get growing on every available scrap of land in town and collectively build a patchwork farm.”

The UK currently grows around 61% of its food consumption, compared to a high of 82% in the early 1980s.

Supporting local rural economies

Recent environmental and political events, such as Brexit, raised the issue of food security and experts stressed the importance of supporting local rural economies and shorter supply chains.

The grant received by Custom Food Lab will fund a Community Food Growing Trainer to deliver workshops and volunteer sessions about permaculture and organic food growing practices across the area.

“Intergenerational activity is also beneficial for reducing isolation, improving mental health and our workshops will bring together a mix of people from the local community including those living in care homes, commercial growers, local gardeners, and children to build the knowledge and confidence of those who will ultimately create the ‘patchwork farm’," says Cherry.

The collective also plans to use the grant to educate people about environmental issues and take a major step in eradicating food insecurity in Folkestone.

“The project area is one of the most deprived in the county and there is a recognised need for the community to understand that localised food production and food knowledge are intrinsically linked to a better future," adds chief executive of the Kent Community Foundation, Josephine McCartney.

“Custom Food Lab’s project to develop interconnected growing spaces will benefit some of the most disadvantaged and isolated members of the community and we look forward to seeing the ongoing results.”

Inspired to act?

DISCOVER: Find out more about Custom Food Lab on its website.

VOLUNTEER: To find a community garden near you, visit the RHS finder website

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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