How did the garden start?
Chris Conniff: We were a group of friends in a remote highland village [Inverasdale, 80 miles – or a two-hour drive – from Inverness] with virtually no access to healthy fruit and vegetables, so we decided to come together and grow communally.
One of the local crofters gave us an acre of land to use and we received funding from the lottery – and other places – to build Kederhouses and polytunnels to withstand the high winds.
The group started in 2003 and we received the major funding in 2005, which paid for all of the structures and a groundsperson, and it allowed me to do all of the administration for 18 months. We’re completely self-sustaining now. To cover costs, we have membership fees and people pay to rent a plot, but we don’t have funding any more.
Tell us about the garden.
We have allotments to grow vegetables for our own use and we also grow produce that goes to the local market. The local people like to buy staple products. We do mixed-salad bags in the summer and also have potatoes and beetroot. We’ve just started growing different fruits. We can grow anything under cover using the polytunnels. We’re trying to extend the seasons, but as we don’t get much sunshine in the winter, we’re a bit limited.
How many people are involved with the garden?
We have 60 regular members a year and a minimum of 20 regular volunteers. We have a work day once a month, when people come together to work on the plot then share a lunch, which stops people being isolated. The volunteers range from children to people who are retired – so eight to 80! We also work with people who are vulnerable or who have mental health problems.
What’s the best thing about Good for Ewe Community Garden?
We’re very remote, with a population of just 1,000 in the wider community. We can provide people with home-grown produce and we sell it affordably. There are big pockets of deprivation here and, although all of our produce is chemical-free, we don’t charge a lot.
The garden is in such a beautiful setting. There are very strong winds, but we’ve allowed for that with lots of fencing, and we’ve put in a hedge.
We’re in a low-crime area, so we don’t have any vandalism. Everybody feels like a part of the project. There’s open access, so people can come and go as they like. People have really bought into the project and nothing has ever been stolen, ruined or spoiled.
Also, we are a genuine community. It’s an open group for everyone, regardless of age, background or how much money they have – and if people have frailties, we can support them.
Would you like to talk to us about your community garden, farm or orchard? Send an email to email@example.com with ‘Growing Spaces’ in the subject line.
The Live Better Challenge is funded by Unilever; its focus is sustainable living. All content is editorially independent. Find out more here.