Sometimes it can be tough to get the kids onboard, but deep down we all love our home-grown veggies! They’re better for our health and for the planet (low carbon footprint, no plastic!) and they teach kids about planting, growing, seasons and flavours.
So we jumped at the chance to catch up with Lindsey Thompson, a teacher, environmentalist, keen cyclist and busy mum who volunteers at Perth Community Farm. Read on to find out how the farm started, how far it’s come – and see just what can be made out of old pallets, tyres and tree trunks!
Lindsey explains that Perth Community Farm started when Craig Burnett, who runs The Bees flower shop with his wife Tanya, had a great idea. “Craig’s daughter has dyslexia and mild autism, and he wanted to develop an opportunity for her to go into the world of work.
He decided to set up some kind of farm where she could work and eventually run a business. Then he realised, if he could do it for her, he could do it for hundreds of other kids. He spoke to Perth & Kinross Council who agreed the farm could be set up on an area of land just off Jeanfield Road. It was a bit of a wilderness, but Craig got together a group of volunteers and they spent nine months getting the land ready.
It was a bit of a wilderness, but Craig got together a group of volunteers and they spent nine months getting the land ready.
“As a teacher, I wanted to provide support to get the kids involved. Also, because I’ve managed volunteers before, I could help with that. So I offered my help in early 2019 and Craig invited me along to the committee, a very dedicated group that works on and helps to plan the farm. At the beginning of this year the committee really started to develop the site and we’ve got all these different spaces now.”
We walk around the farm as Lindsey talks me through it. It’s about a third of an acre, all in, on different levels and in different stages of growth. We look first at the poly tunnel, a vegetable patch and a wildflower area.
“We also have an area at the back,” adds Lindsey, “for showing people how to do square-foot gardening, i.e. in a small space such as in urban areas.
“The vegetable area, where we have beetroot, potatoes, peas, radishes and more, is great for kids. We’ve had kids up from Oakbank Primary School, where I work. Primary 5 were doing it as part of their growing topic.
The Primary 1 kids were seeing the wonder of growing things, going round the herbs, touching and sniffing them. They could pick peas from the pod and lettuce leaves and taste them straight away. It’s also nice for the kids to see how warm the tunnel is and how we can grow other things and extend the season of growing.”
There’s a rather fantastic shed in the corner, too, constructed almost entirely from pallets and other reused materials. “Ian, one of the committee members, has just started Zero Waste Perth woodwork workshops. One is for women’s woodwork and one is for anyone who wants to learn more about woodworking.
We hope that the classes will eventually be able to run on the site here, and people can then utilise the skills they have learned to do woodwork on the farm.
“We have raised beds for wheelchair access, and a wheelchair-accessible path, so that people can tend to the plants and do the weeding, at their level. We’re hoping to make the poly tunnel totally wheelchair-accessible, too.
“We also have a wild area which we think was used for allotments. We have a lot of raspberry bushes coming up, which we hope to use to grow more. We’ve done a lot of strawberries this year, too. We started off with eight plants; we divided them up last year and we now have 138 plants!”
It’s amazing how much can be packed into small spaces. But where does it all go and how can we get our hands on the delicious fruit and veg?
Some local cafés are very keen to use the produce. The café at Tiso Perth Outdoor Experience, Inveralmond, used it to do some local dishes as specials. Over time, Lindsey hopes the farm can supply the local market and really help to reduce the carbon footprint of people’s fresh produce.
Next year, there should be enough strawberries to start a “Pick your own” offering, which should be hugely popular with local families.
If that wasn't enough, Lindsey has started a Perth Community Farm Zero Waste Food Co-op where people can buy in bulk and avoid plastic, tying in perfectly with the environmental aims of the farm. That’s being run with support and space from Gary Boatman, a fellow committee member, at Craigie Cross Community Café.
Lindsey, Craig, and a host of enthusiastic volunteers worked tirelessly to set up Perth’s very first Zero Waste Pop-up Shop, selling refills and offering delicious herbs and veg from the farm.
The farm relies totally on the hard-working committee and any other volunteers who wish to help – families, including kids, are welcome to join in. Lindsey says, “When kids come down they like to help with the gardening and we’ve also got a brilliant kids’ play area. We sometimes do Dig & Play sessions, too. Anyone can come along with the kids and do gardening and craft activities.”
Perth Community Farm is always looking for extra help. Whatever your skills – or even if you don’t know anything about gardening – they’d love to hear from you.
Visit Perth Community Farm on Facebook, or pop along to see Craig at The Bees / Perth Community Farm shop. Or just come down on either of the two work days: Wednesday evenings or Saturday afternoons (these will reduce as the days get shorter).
Your workplace or youth group could help too! “We have worked with SSE and with Perth & Kinross Council – their employees came here to do teambuilding days. There are always plenty of jobs to do!”
As opposed to an allotment, where each person has their own separate sections, here everyone just mucks in on the jobs together. “It’s a good community feel,” adds Lindsey.
Not surprisingly, the committee is brimming with ideas for the future. “We want to develop the wild area, extend the wildflower area and plant more fruit and vegetables. We’re also looking for a second, more commercial site so we can become more sustainable.
“Craig has been doing a lot of work on our vertical growing system in the poly tunnel, to reduce the amount of space that it takes in urban areas to grow things such as strawberries. He also plans to make our poly tunnels wheelchair-accessible, so that people in wheelchairs can pick strawberries.”
I ask Lindsey how she’d advise others around the country who wanted to do something similar.
There are some people in my local area who have done some planting in tyres in the spaces between the houses!
“You have to have a group of people that are committed to it and willing to make the changes. But the land is the most important thing. It’s hard to get hold of land, but speak to your local council, speak to other groups in the area."
"There are some people in my local area who have done some planting in tyres in the spaces between the houses! You can always find a way to grow.”
If you’d like to find out more about this wonderful enterprise, you can contact Perth Community Farm on Facebook, pop into The Bees / Perth Community Farm shop or simply pop down to the farm during one of the working days (see Facebook for details).
For Little Green inspiration, or if you have any ideas you’d like to share with us, please do contact us at Little Green Ways.
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