Growing Local: Reflecting on 2021 Activities and Looking Forward to the New Year

Growing Local: Reflecting on 2021 Activities and Looking Forward to the New Year

As we come to the end of 2021, we look back at the “Growing Local” activities of this year, as well as what is to come in 2022

The “Growing Local” project - which set out to support folk growing their own food – ends the year having developed a strong network of enthusiasts sharing local produce and expertise.

Northmavine Community Development Company’s (NCDC) Growing Local initiative took root in January with a Crown Estate grant seeking to nurture Shetland’s flourishing interest in food sustainability.

Already the scheme has seen hundreds of people flock to a Makers’ Market to buy local produce, arts and crafts.

Project leaders now hope to build on their success with new initiatives, events and even a “crofting trail app”.

Project coordinator Mark Ratter said: “There is no shortage of enthusiasm within the community for the project, and a real desire from existing growers and crofters to ensure a culture of growing in the community can continue.”

Mr Ratter said research had been carried out to understand the obstacles preventing people from growing, such as a lack of time and space, which the project sought to address.

It also aims to provide a regular supply of sustainable and affordable local produce.

Mr Ratter added: “One key aspect is to have local produce available at a range of events, not least so more folk can try it and see how good it tastes, and become increasingly familiar with the value of locally-produced food.”

The first such event, a Makers’ Market at Hillswick Public Hall in August, was attended by more than 300 visitors who turned out to buy produce and crafts as well as watching food demonstrations and listening to live music.

Mr Ratter said NCDC now hoped to hold regular growing-themed events around the region, including a plant sale, garden produce show, and a return of the Makers’ Market.  Further plans include a Polycrub open day and workshops led by Transition Turriefield.

The team is also looking to develop community-owned growing spaces across these areas, complete with polycrubs and raised beds.  They are also helping the volunteers at Nort Trow Community Garden to look at ways of sustaining it for the future.

NCDC has become merchants for Shetland Kale Seed and is selling packs at Plantiecrub and local events.  The partnership with crofters aims to promote the crop in Shetland and further afield.  An online sales platform launches next year.

A further partnership with the Rural Food Tourism Places project is hoping to create the crofter trail app, promoting traditional growing techniques used by Northmavine crofters, and saving them from being lost.

Visitors will be able to download the app and take a guided trail around the region, listening to audio including interviews of locals telling the crofting stories of the area.

The project has also worked beside Grow Shetland to see the creation of the North Mainland Food Growers’ Group, which is set to hold its first meeting in person in early March 2022.