Growing in Harmony
Our growing in Harmony site is where we grow various kinds of fruit, vegetables and herbs. Based at Kirkleatham between the owl centre and the museum, the site is predominantly an education and training facility where we teach volunteers about horticulture, assist them in developing employability skills, and often provide references when they move on towards paid work. During the Covid-19 crisis many of our volunteers have struggled with mental health and isolation and as soon as we were able, we contacted the council for permission to welcome them back safely. Since then our Kirkleatham site has become a safe haven for many. The therapeutic value of being outdoors and working with plants can't be underestimated at times like this and the opportunity to get out of the house and talk to other people has been equally valuable for many.
Zoe, one of our longer term volunteers has even been helping Sharon make instructional videos like the one above, recorded last July. Instructional videos, like this one and the one on how to grow courgettes upwards in a smaller space (left) have formed a big part of the support we've offered while we've been unable to connect with our community in real life. They have allowed us to stay in touch with people through our facebook pages and youtube channel and have given those who are struggling a way to initiate conversation and ask for help when they might have struggled to do so otherwise
Growing in Harmony's History
When we first took over the site we discovered that the land was of very poor quality so rather than try to plant in the soil we built a number of raised beds for growing. We were able to begin doing this with the support of local companies like Scott Brothers who donated more than 40 tons of compost and topsoil to fill the beds and Wiltons engineering who donated the scaffolding boards we used to make them. We hope to build more raised beds to increase our growing space in the future with further kind donations.
Growing in Harmony has provided some really valuable educational opportunities for diverse groups in our local community, from people studying for apprenticeships to individual volunteers to young offenders and people who visit from the prison. Whether they are working towards a qualification, working towards a fresh start or simply working for the joy of it, the site offers opportunities to learn about horticulture, woodworking, small animal care and many other practical skills.
With so much commercially available food now travelling great distances to reach us and often being treated by harmful chemicals at every stage of its production, natural growing methods are taking on ever greater importance. As we become increasingly aware of the impact of modern farming methods more and more of us are seeking out alternatives and for some this means growing our own food. While it's beyond the resources and capabilities of most of us to grow everything we eat, even growing a little of our food can help. If you'd love to do this but don't know where to start, volunteering at our Growing in Harmony project is a great way to learn!
The Growing in Harmony project and our new community growing project were inspired by the Havana urban food growing model in which the people of Cuba, motivated by food shortages in a time of economic crisis, began using all available space, no matter how small, to grow food. Our hope is that we can show that a small space or an urban environment need not be a barrier to growing food. The Havana model uses a technique called organoponics, a Cuban invention distinguished from other intensive growing methods by the absence of chemicals and reliance on an organic substrate obtained from crop residues, household waste and animal manures, making it an environmentally friendly and sustainable approach.