Bentley Urban Farm
From our very first issue back in 2014, Doncopolitan has brazenly declared its intention to build a brighter, braver Donny. Central to such a project is the development of what is known as the Foundational Economy. Manchester’s Centre for Socio-Cultural Change
(CRESC) says that the Foundational Economy is: “built from the activities that provide the essential goods and services for everyday life.” These include utilities such as energy and water; food production and processing; retail and distribution; and health, education, housing and welfare. Because they are essential to everyday life, these elements of the economy dramatically influence each other as well as the wider economy and society in general. None more so than food.
Which is why, when the Chief Executive of Doncaster Council – the formidable Jo Miller (a woman recently named the third most influential person working in local government) – asked to meet with Doncopolitan, we knew we had to use the opportunity to take the first steps towards turning our dreams into reality and present our plans for the disused Bentley Horticultural Centre. Thankfully Jo liked our ideas and Bentley Urban Farm was born.
Bentley Urban Farm is a co-operative social enterprise — a non-profit business created to benefit local communities – which is using reclaimed materials to create an ‘upcycled market garden’. The vast majority of the resources and tools we use are donated by people, businesses and groups who would otherwise have had to throw them away. For instance, much of our wood comes from the crates which Doncaster’s new LED street lighting was delivered in; we’ve made grow beds from pallets which were used to deliver new tiles for Woodlands’ church roof; we have benches and planters made from old filing cabinets; and
an off-grid water system made out
of IBC containers previously used by Chef’s Kitchen, a local vinegar importer (we even use any leftover dredges of vinegar as organic weed-killer). Almost everything we have used to get the site back up and running is a resource which we have rescued from becoming ‘waste’. In the same spirit we like to keep our own waste to an absolute minimum. We even have a demonstration compost toilet to help show that there is no such thing as waste, only wasted opportunities.
Ecology and the environment is very important to us, but the main purpose of Bentley Urban Farm is to fight food poverty and food deserts. Doncaster has major problems with food poverty and food related health issues such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Most towns have more than their fair share of fast-food outlets, but there are virtually no independent greengrocers, especially in the former mining towns. Doncaster is literally a place where it is easier to buy kebabs than kale. A fact which is even more worrying when you consider that we’re a largely rural area with fertile land and one of the best micro-climates in the north.
Bentley Urban Farm was set up to develop new food education strategies and to supply healthy, fresh, local food to some of the poorest communities in
the UK. Not by telling people what they should eat, but by showing how new attitudes to food — the way we produce it, the way we buy it and the way we consume it — can make you healthier, wealthier and, most importantly, happier. Food is fundamental, but we rarely treat it with the respect it deserves.
Our SEED & SAV£ project, covered in detail by Greenjacker on page 38, teaches people how to grow their own food, encourages them to eat together and even pays them a bit of pocket money for the food they’ve grown by buying it back for our BUF Boxes. This is the veg box scheme which helps to fund the project. By buying a BUF Box you not only help to keep the site open for the community, you also help to subsidise heavily discounted and free BUF Boxes for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. Other ways of helping BUF include volunteering, donating (tools, materials and money), becoming a member and attending our workshops and events.
At the moment Fridays are the best day for volunteering as our friend and neighbour, the wonderful Manna Café, is also open. Soon we will also be running special Saturday afternoon volunteering events where we share food, drink, stories and music around a fire after an afternoon of light volunteering. We are currently putting together a programme of other social, cultural and arts events which will take place throughout the year. We will also be hosting regular growing, crafting and therapeutic workshops, including workshops by Doncopolitan’s very own Greenjacker and local holistic therapist, Suzie Wass.
The best way to keep up with what we’re doing is to become a member of the BUF Member’s Club. Not only will you be kept informed about our public events and workshops; you will have access to exclusive member only events too; you will receive a generous discount on your BUF Boxes and other produce and merchandise; and you will receive a regular BUF Newsletter.
We might be Bentley Urban Farm, but Bentley is just the beginning. Our aim is to seed the knowledge and skills which will allow people to build a network of independent urban farms around Doncaster; each one with their own specialist skills and produce. The region’s uniquely diverse soil map and favourable micro-climate means that we can turn Doncaster into a niche growing area, specialising in crops which are not already well known, or which are hard to find commercially. If we work together to rebrand Doncaster as the number one specialist growing region of the UK, we can create new and untapped markets and guarantee Doncaster’s place in the future of UK food production.
If you want to be a part of Doncaster’s food future or would just like to support what we do please get in touch: bentleyurbanfarm.com 07422 966 115