Written by Greenjacker
For those who don’t know, the Greenjacker has a not-so-secret hideaway down at Bentley Urban Farm (BUF), an upcycled market garden situated behind Bentley Hight Street School and St Peter’s Church. Bentley is a typical Doncaster town. An ex-mining community which is officially listed amongst the top 10% of the poorest regions in England, local residents suffer from many food poverty related issues such as high rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other diet related diseases, poor nutrition and children going hungry at school. Bentley has the third highest uptake of food bank donations in Doncaster and 94% of people in the Greater Bentley region live within walking distance of a fast-food outlet, but there isn’t a single independent greengrocer to serve 21,000 souls (it is a place where it is literally easier to buy kebabs than kale). Statistically speaking, Bentley is rubbish.
But statistics never tell the whole story. Bentley is an amazing place where the people have always looked after their own. The training area where BUF is situated was created through the hard work of local people in the 1970s and the Pavilion, with its Green Flag awarded park, was paid for by miners many years ago. There is still a relatively strong sense of community. The houses around here were designed for people, rather than profit. We may be economically poor, but we’re land rich. As well as being surrounded by fertile agricultural land, most people have access to decent sized gardens and allotments. Doncaster has one of the best microclimates in the north of England and the area is rich with wildlife which is declining elsewhere in the UK. In short, like much of Doncaster, we are a peri-urban paradise with everything we need to build a braver, brighter future.
Working collectively — as people around here have always done — we already have everything we need to end food poverty locally, both in Bentley and Doncaster as a whole. We just need to change our attitudes towards food, our understanding of the economy and our relationship with the land on which we live. We have become dangerously disconnected from the fundamentals of life. Food, energy, shelter, wellbeing; the more control we have over these essentials, the better protected we are from economic uncertainty.
In their own small way, Bentley Urban Farm are leading the charge for a more resilient, slower, healthier food future for Doncaster. Their Big Lottery sponsored ‘SEED & SAV£’ programme gives you the opportunity not only to start growing your own food, but to make money from the food you grow. They have built a number of ‘community grow beds’ in various sizes which are used to teach charities, volunteer groups, families and individuals how to grow healthy, fresh, local food. The beds are free to use as long as you promise to work collaboratively to help others and chip-in to keep the site looking ship-shape.
The BUF team will teach you everything you need to know to start growing food and you can even get free seeds from their Seed Exchange project, plant pots from the Pot Library (which helps reduce plastic waste), tools from the BUF Tool Library and, if you become a fully signed up member of BUF, you can even loan books from the BUF Land Library.
You can use the community grow beds to get started, but the main purpose of SEED & SAV£ is to get you growing at home. This will save you money on your food bill, but BUF will also buy back some of your produce for their ‘BUF Bag’ veg box scheme, giving you the opportunity to earn a little pocket money from your newfound growing skills. For those who show a real knack for growing, BUF will even help you set up your own micro-enterprise to supply local food outlets, cafes and restaurants. Meaning that SEED & SAV£ offers a genuine opportunity to change your life. So why not get started today?..
Later in the year I will also be launching the ‘Greenjacker School of Green Wizardry’ to help you become more resilient in other aspects of your life. Contact Bentley Urban Farm or follow me on Twitter for further details: @ Greenjacker