As you can see from the photos, I visited Green Futures on the wettest day of the year. The damp and dreariness was fully matched by the warmth and cheerfulness of the volunteers, who got on amiably with tasks in the polytunnels, and lent me an umbrella for a guided tour in the pouring rain. Come with us…
Grimsby’s Community Garden
Green Futures is a community garden at the Vanson Centre, a council owned site on the Bradley Road in Grimsby.
It a place where anyone in the community can go to socialise, learn new skills, grow food, and co-create a very special place.
The site is large – 3.5 acres – and is well used, well loved, and very well cared for. The designs and functions are diverse, thoughtful and imaginative.
A team of 20-30 regular volunteers meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays to look after:
- five large polytunnels
- herb & flower gardens
- a fruit orchard, of local heritage varieties
- a wetland & wildlife area
- a memorial garden
- a woodland
- tool and potting sheds, and indoor spaces
- firewood processing
The volunteers range in age from 23-88 years old, and come for a variety of reasons: to benefit their physical and mental health; to deepen their connection with the natural world, the land and their food; or to develop inwardly through a practice of kindness.
Others come to make friends and socialise, to learn new skills, or to use the skills they have to benefit their community.
Everyone gains friendship, pride and delicious, super-fresh food.
Cooking courses run by or in collaboration with Green Futures, such as the recent Can’t Cook Want to Cook programme, are especially well received.
Cooking workshops are designed to use easily accessible, cheap ingredients, and make a connection with food grown on site and herbs that are easy to grow at home.
They are often attended by people who use foodbanks, to help with creating nourishing, tasty food from scratch.
Popular recipes include “fakeaways” – typical takeaway meals that can be cooked at home, but at a fraction of the cost and with much higher nutrient content.
Social cooking is a lot of fun, and – led by an experienced and talented local chef – everyone learns a lot and takes home really useful new skills, as well as recipes, ingredients and kitchen tools.
Groups & Activities
Other groups that run or have recently run at Green Futures include:
- Craft group, with professional facilitators
- Exercise group
- Walking group for older adults
- Weight management groups
- Parent & child woodland groups
Green Futures Journey
Green Futures has been going for a decade, and in that time has changed and adapted considerably to meet the changing needs of its community. Here are a couple of examples:
Changes to food access
When Green Futures first opened, it used to run a low cost veg box scheme, enabling people in food deserts – without access to affordable, healthy basics – to buy very low cost fresh veg.
However, now that supermarkets offer home deliveries, fewer people need a veg box delivered to their door. The box scheme was not able to offer the same variety of produce that a supermarket can, and having to buy in imported and specialist produce made it less viable.
The trade aspect also brought in a pressure and urgency that was not helpful for a volunteer-reliant project. Many volunteers were there for a more gentle, relaxed experience than is possible in a commercial context, and didn’t necessarily have the skills, availability and experience needed to run a professional scheme.
Moreover, a separation between paid and unpaid workers was not conducive to community building, and enabling those with more experience to share skills, work together and help one another.
Changes to Foodbanks
Prior to the cost of living crisis, foodbanks existed to offer short term support to people who found themselves facing an emergency situation. The food provided was typically ambient temperature ready meals – easy to store, easy to prepare without minimal cooking facilities.
We are now seeing an astronomical rise in need for foodbanks. As the cost of living rises, more and more people are being forced into poverty. Parents are struggling to put healthy food on the table, day in and day out.
Many foodbanks now welcome fresh produce, and it is distributed very quickly.
“When our volunteers delivered the fresh produce that we had grown here to the foodbank, and saw how much it was needed and appreciated, they felt very differently about giving away the food. Recently, we took in 7 crates of grapes (around 35 kilos) and it was gone in about an hour. People were so glad to receive it.”Carol Prendergast, Green Futures