The aim of this project is to bring local communities together, by involving individual gardeners, groups, allotment holders and schools in growing heirloom vegetables well adapted to the Highland climate and soils.
To instruct them on how to collect the seeds, clean, dry and package them in a home/kitchen environment, using everyday household tools.
These seeds will then be added to the Highland Peoples food seed bank, so that within 10 years enough viable food seed is held in domestic freezers (seedbanks) in villages and towns across the Highlands to feed its 250,000 inhabitants.
Information is also made available on saving the harvest by bottling, pickling, drying, clamping so that gardeners can overcome the short harvesting season in the Highlands.
The project is also putting together hints and tips supplied by gardeners across the Highlands on anything from space saving to organic pest control.
This project has no funding and is reliant only on the good will of the people of the Highlands who volunteer their time, whether they are individuals or community groups.
The Highland People’s Food Seedbank Project Update No2 - July 2009 by Chris Scatchard
Just 19 weeks from the launch in March and the project has 18 households actively involved in growing vegetables provided by the project with the aim of collecting the seed and donating it to the bank.
Most of the householders/gardeners have never saved seed before and some have never grown their own food, so I would like to personally thank them for their interest and efforts – Liz, Alison & Michael, Teàrlach, Rebecca, Charles, Pirouel & Ruth, Maggie, Tony & Marina, Gordon & Alison, Chris, Sue & Hugh, Charles, Sue, John, Robert, Ian and finally David.
I would also like to thank volunteers Jamie and Rob (who both live in gardenless accommodation) for helping to make hundreds of newspaper pots and sow the many trays of seed for this season, and for helping with the 450 house leaflet drop in April.
Most of all, none of this would have been possible without the donation of heirloom/open pollinated seed from Agric, Jane, Teàrlach, Ben & Kate.
The project has gone through many changes since the launch, not least in its vision of the end result. It was first envisioned that “a” seed bank in the Highlands would, when needed, distribute seed to every village and town throughout the Highlands. It is now clear that this would not only be impracticable, but people are more interested at the prospects of saving seed for their village or towns future, rather than for a centralised bank. The project emphasis is now on getting every towns allotment/gardening group and individual gardeners to work together to build their own seed bank.
Due to suggestions following talks on the project, I have added “Pickle & Dry” to the website, this is to help growers to save/preserve glut harvests. I have a few volunteers trying out simple bottling, pickling and drying recipies which when proven, will be added to the site page.
I have also started to keep back garden chickens to help increase my food independence, the “Chicken Diary” page on the website is devoted to telling how I achieved this on an almost zero budget, an up to date diary of their care and problems experienced.
I will also be adding a general “Hints and Tips” page with details of creative space gardening, free compost sources like seaweed and how its used (great as mulch to keep slugs off cabbages!), weeds you can eat from your garden (with recipies) and more so don’t hesitate to send me your hints and tips.
The project has had interviews on and articles published in, BBC TV Alba, BBC Radio nan Gàidheal, BBC Radio Scotland, Inverness Courier, Inverness Press & Journal, Forres Gazette, Northern Scot, Highland News, Local People Leading and Highlands & Islands Organic Association Newsletter.
The research planned on calorific content on food available now to that which we could grow ourselves, and what we could scavenge was not done, I completely underestimated the amount of my time that would be consumed by advising, encouraging and digging others gardens, not to mention talks to groups, learning to and building a website.
All in all, I am delighted at the interest and general support given to the project by people from every spectrum of life, many of them from outside the Highlands. Thank you everyone.
During the Summer/Autumn 2009 I plan to: -
1, Renew efforts to form a small steering committee.
2, Put together a realistic 5 and 10 year goal plan.
3, Food research, leading to “the Future of our Food” workshop.
4, Bring existing volunteers together in their areas to form small self-supporting garden groups and encourage them to bring others in to their fold.
5, Continue to publicise the project by accepting bookings for talks on the project:
Inverness Horticultural Society- September 2009
Transition Scotland- date TBC 2009
Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society AGM- June 2010
On a personal note, let me thank everyone for all the phone calls and emails of congratulations, offers of help, support and resources received within days of launching the project, and continuing through to today.
At the time of launching this project I believed I would have a mountain to climb to achieve this dream, and yet, as a result of the launch I discover 5 other groups/individuals doing the same thing on a small scale, all of who are keen to offer help, advice and experience.
It was my intention to work within the Inverness communities under the banner of the Transition Town Inverness group, but it is clear that all the Transition Town groups in the Highlands wish in some way to be involved, and many of the offers of help and land have come from outlaying areas. I have therefore decided to change the name of the project to “The Highland People’s Food Seedbank Project”.
Whilst offers to apply for government funding have been made, I am set against this for the following reasons. Firstly, the project is about the Highland communities working together, however large or small to a common goal, but more importantly, I believe that any kind of official funding will bring with it control! I do not want to see the people of the Highlands having to prove their entitlement to a seed pack by age, race, religion or cost. If you are human you must be entitled without question and it has to be free!
During the next month (April 2009) I intend to: -
1, Visit all those who have offered resources and professional advice to build an overall plan of action for this growing season (2009)
2, Put together a small group of people to act as guiding committee for the project, and I would like to see 1 person from each Transition Town group on that committee whether expert or keen volunteer.
3, Launch a questionnaire via email and the website for information on the types and quantities of vegetables people eat in the Highlands, from which an average can be obtained, then based on yields, an assessment of the amount of seed per vegetable group needed to feed an individual per season can be assessed.
This will then form the basis for a minimum overall size of the proposed seedbank within 10 years.
4, Launch a request via local media for volunteers to have a go, get their hands dirty and learn about growing vegetables.
5, Have an interview/article published on the project by Local People Leading.
6, Build a web based project information site.