St Albans food growing community activist, Kate Swindells, is included in the national #HappyList2020, published by the Independent newspaper.
Kate, who is a Sopwell resident with a young family, initiated the Grow Community – Sopwell project in order to encourage and enable local residents to grow their own food at home and in community spaces, to reduce food waste, share surplus food, and to promote wildlife conservation and bring the community together.
During lockdown’s gardening boom Kate has shared seedlings on her ‘Covid-safe help yourself’ front garden stall where people can pick up plants and seeds to grow.
Kate said: “I’m really moved by this nomination and inclusion in the #HappyList2020, it’s representing hundreds of similar projects up and down the country. Grow Community – Sopwell is very definitely a team effort, and it’s been wonderful to see so many people getting involved; growing their own food and benefiting from community support.”
The Happy List 2020 celebrates 50 of Britain’s happiness-spreading heroes and heroines who have united communities, been a force for good during a challenging period, and proven that even the worst of times can bring out the best in people. This year it inlcludes the well-known war veteran Captain Sir Tom Moore, who raised over £30m for NHS charities.
Founded in 2008 is an antidote to awards that honour wealth or celebrity status, and acknowledges people that give rather than take, doing extraordinary things to help others.
The county councillor for Sopwell Cllr Sandy Walkington said:
“This is a great tribute to Kate and to the Sopwell community who have been such enthusiastic adopters of the Grow Community ideal. I’ve been so pleased to support her with county council funding; she continues to bubble with brilliant ideas.”
Linda Bateman, one of the people who nominated Kate for the #HappyList2020 said:
“What Kate has done for the Sopwell Community – obviously with a team of equally fabulous people – has been huge. Kate has inspired me to grow fruit and veg for the first time: and gave me a real sense of purpose during Lockdown.”
“This community project brought us together like no other”
Hamid El Bouchikhi, a volunteer who shares his skills in growing fruit trees as espaliers, said:
“This community project brought us all together like no other. With all different people at its heart caring for each other even more than usual, in times like these.”
Grow Community – Sopwell has a thriving Facebook group with over 270 members where people share ideas about growing. During lockdown the volunteers have given a make-over to Abbots Avenue planters growing various herbs and salad vegetables, and organised a successful online Food Garden Question Time with advice for local residents.
Previous activities have included a Love Birds event – making bird boxes and bird snacks, with Ver Valley Society, and jam-making events.
Community Garden Project
Kate said: “We are now planning to create and maintain a community garden in Sopwell, which will be partly funded by St Albans City and District Community Grants Fund. A consultation to the community to get ideas about where best to locate the garden has just been carried out and we hope to announce the chosen location soon. We’ve been inspired by FoodSmiles St Albans’ Incredible Edible community gardens in the city centre and are grateful for their continuing support and advice.”
Jo Cooney, a committee member for the group said: “It’s been great working with Kate – she’s a true inspiration to get more people out there growing their own food. We all hope that the new-look planters at Abbots Avenue will cheer people up and encourage them to get involved with the upcoming community garden project.”
The initiative has been so popular that another Grow Community project has already sprung up in St Michaels ward – see Grow Community – St Michaels.
Find out more
For more information about Grow Community – Sopwell and to get involved visit the Facebook group or see www.cottonmillandsopwellhub.org/grow/