Growing Together: Making community gardens sustainable

Growing Together is a three year UK-wide project dedicated to increasing the sustainability of the community growing sector.

In Northern Ireland it is being spearheaded by Miriam Turley of the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens and Tiziana O’Hara of Co-operative Alternatives.

On Friday, May 8, Miriam and Tiziana will lead a discussion on how to make community gardens more sustainable as part of the BIG TABLE event as part of the Open Source NI Festival organised by PLACE and Friends of the Earth. The event will take place at 3pm in Lower Garfield Street, Belfast (more information below).

In this blog, Miriam explains the aims and objectives of Growing Together.

“The idea behind the project is to look at alternatives to grant-funding by investigating how small community groups can reduce their need for funding or access alternative sources of finance such as community shares and crowd funding.

In Northern Ireland we are looking at new methods of social capital, for example how a number of community gardens in East Belfast run by Belfast City Council share all kinds of resources, such as tools, equipment, volunteers and access to poly tunnels. This is all about now to network locally to share skills.

Another aspect is assessing how groups can become more established by looking at how their finances are structured. We consider financial models such as community shares, crowd-funding and forming social enterprises.

Growing Together is currently in a consultative phase and we have sent out a survey to find out what are the needs and requirements of different regions of the UK.

If anyone wants to participate in the survey to gather information about how this project can benefit projects in Northern Ireland they can follow this link:

When the results of the survey have been finalised we will use this information  to inform us on the types of specialist session we will  deliver to groups. The intention is to help community growing groups get the specialist help they have identified they need.

The project is very strongly partnership-based. The organisations involved include The Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens, Co-operative Alternatives, the Permaculture Association, Groundwork UK, Incredible Edible Network, The Plunkett Foundation, The Development Trust Association of Scotland and the Wales Co-operative Centre.

These organisations provide local knowledge of the social and economic landscape for groups setting up community gardens.

Tiziana O’Hara from Co-operative Alternatives and I are looking forward to the Open Source NI Festival event on Friday, May 8. It is a really interesting and creative festival and it is a great opportunity to spread the word about Growing Together in Northern Ireland.

Co-operative Alternatives has the experience and wide technical expertise to encourage small groups and give them confidence to look at all the options available. During Friday’s event we are looking at the example of Peas Park Community Garden run by Temporary Places in the Skegoneill/Glandore area of North Belfast.

Suzanne Thompson and Aimee Lorimer from the project will be attending and we will be using the park as a case study and examining how they began from scratch with no money and how they built up their social capital in the area. They achieved a lot of work for free and used a lot of recycled and reclaimed materials, volunteer labour and creative ways of working.

Now they have got a little bit of funding, the idea of the workshop is to explore their success and the different financial structures that are now available to them.

Tiziana and I will be exploring the alternatives with the gardeners on how they set up and what their future options are.

For more information about Growing Together here is a link to the project page. They are currently developing a dedicated website, which is to be launched soon.

To find out more about the BIG TABLE event at Open Source NI event on Friday, May 8 at 3pm go to:

Temporary Places have a website here, where you can read more about their fascinating project.