Just a month into our new allotment project and the response to our school’s seed shortage has been overwhelming. We began with literally nothing to plant and now, within the space of just a few weeks, we are sprouting seeds out of our ears! Thanks to many kind and generous donations we have around 60 different vegetables and flowers to sow. It’s incredible!
One of the biggest organisations who has shown their support is Down to Earth. They support people in growing and harvesting their own fruit and vegetables. Their aim is to increase access to, and availability of, fresh, nutritious and healthy food and encourage reconnection with the land. They provide a range of services including gardening and run several community projects across Gloucestershire.
A group of enthusiastic parents from the school have had the pleasure of meeting this incredibly kind bunch of people both on the allotment as well as at the Stroud Farmers Market last weekend. There are plans currently underway for members from the Down to Earth team to come onboard and give workshops. It’s a really exciting partnership, the main benefactors being the children.
As we start the sowing season it really is all about the seeds, which is why one of the first workshops we are keen to organise relates to seed guardians. Seed guardians grow one or two crops for seed in their own gardens or allotments, and donate that seed to the seed bank. Down to Earth, who run the Stroud Seed Bank, offer ongoing support and the chance to be part of a growing community. In Spring they hold a training session for seed guardians and in Autumn they come together for a harvest meal with swapping of seeds and stories from the year. We believe it will provide a wonderful opportunity for the children, giving them a real sense of purpose not only their planting but also to themselves. To become the first school in Gloucestershire with its own army of seed guardians would be something really quite magical.
It hasn’t just been the local’s who have helped. A national seed bank also sent a wonderful box of goodies bursting with beans, beetroot and butternut squash!
Christmas presents have also helped to tot up the total. One little boy from school was so excited to receive seeds from his Grandmother that he stuck them on his wall proclaiming they were his best Christmas present! Delightful stuff.
Some seeds have led to much intrigue. This giant tub of rainbow chard was kindly donated by the Stroud Seed Bank. They didn’t come with any sowing instructions, which made the whole learning process even more exciting! It took a bit of digging, (excuse the pun) to unearth (excuse the other pun) as to how they should be sown and harvested.
These broad bean seeds were kindly donated by Nailsworth Garden Centre. This incredibly kind bunch of people also gave the children a bird feeding station, bird food, trugs, sowing labels and pens and lots of bags of compost manure. The total value of the donation was over £100.
Another wonderful seed source has been Learning Through Landscapes. They recently awarded the school with a £500 nature grant and with that came a huge bundle of seeds and sowing packs.
Thanks to everyone’s generosity and support the children now have an incredibly extensive and varied seed collection. Crops such as cape gooseberry for example, are something most of the children will have never tried, so it’s fantastic they now have this opportunity.
Of course, with all these seeds comes plenty of opportunity for harvesting and ultimately cooking. When the weather warms and the fruit and veg start to ripen we hope to invite local cookery companies to the allotment to give the children some outdoor cooking experiences with food picked straight from the soil.
It’s not just all about the fruit and veg, flowers will also form a key part in the school’s allotment plan. With a large area of the site reserved for wildflowers the hope is that lots of pollinating insects will visit. It will also be visually stimulating for the children and provide yet more educational content.
There is so much in the news at the moment that is so relevant to everything the school is trying to put in place. Plastic is a big one, as is sustainably sourced food. Mental health is an endless subject for debate with many citing increased screen time and reduced time outside being the key reason for the rise of mental health problems in children. The allotment project at Oakridge tackles all these really big issues in one swift blow. The children are extremely fortunate to be a part of something so special where the underlying current pushing it forwards is them.