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June 23, 2010

Political haggling leaves food for thought

The Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund was the result of horse trading as the parties tried to reach agreement on the budget for the Scottish Parliament – and that piece of political serendipity has resulted in almost 250 communities being able take action to cut local carbon emissions.  In particular, local food initiatives have proliferated–  and nowhere more than in Portobello in Edinburgh where a group called PEDAL have big plans

PEDAL wants to help and encourage local people and businesses to produce and buy more of their food locally, and from organic sources. This means identifying and getting access to local land that could be used for growing food, and enabling local people to re-learn the skills needed for producing and preparing food. It also means encouraging people to re-establish connections with local and organic producers, buy more of produce from them, and celebrate local food!

Why is local and organic food important?

PEDAL was recently awarded a grant from the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund to take forward a range of projects aimed at enabling and encouraging people in Portobello to grow or buy more local food

Dig In Porty!

The best, most local, organic, and tasty food is food that you have grown, pre­pared and cooked your­self! We want to help every­one in Portobello to grow what they can, on their win­dowsill, in their garden, or on an allot­ment or our planned com­munity farm.

We also want to help local people save money and reduce car­bon emis­sions by learn­ing how to pre­serve food, reduce the amount of food they throw away, or com­post what’s left over.

You may never have grown your own fruit and veg before, or you may have star­ted and want to know more. To help you, PEDAL is plan­ning a series of courses and work­shops. We are already offer­ing courses on how to grow your own veg, and we are look­ing to run oth­ers on com­post­ing, bee­keep­ing, bread mak­ing, pickle mak­ing, prun­ing fruit trees and bushes, cook­ing with scraps, and more.

Fruitful Porty

Portobello has a good climate for growing apples, pears, plums and cherries, and there are many such fruit trees in people’s gardens. However, the harvest from many of these could be going to waste, as people often don’t have the time to pick all the fruit or their trees produce more than they can use. Meanwhile, most of us are spending good money on fruit imported from abroad.

If you think about the area that all the gardens and public spaces in Portobello make up, there could be room for many more fruit trees too. Altogether, existing fruit trees and potential new ones could number as many as you’d find in a big orchard, and the fruit could be used locally.

PEDAL is inviting Portobello residents, businesses and landowners to become part of the Fruitful Porty orchard. The aim is to increase the amount of fresh fruit grown, stored and consumed in Portobello, and to raise awareness of the amazing variety of apples, pears and so on that are no longer available in the shops (but could be again one day!).

So if you have a fruit tree in your garden but don’t use all the fruit, we are keen to hear from you. Or if you have a space where you could plant a new fruit tree, why not buy a low cost organic one from us?

Owners of new and existing trees who sign-up to become part of the Fruitful Porty orchard will be able to map their trees online if they want to, so that people can see the amazing number and variety of fruit trees growing in Portobello. They will also be invited to community harvesting and celebration days, where local people will join together to pick, store, preserve, cook and eat the fruit! We will also be making stickers, tree tags, and posters available to those who want to let people know they are part of Fruitful Porty.

Dingle’s Field Orchard–Portobello’s First Community Orchard.

We’re working with the local authority to develop an orchard in Portobello. It will be planted and worked by local people, and the fruit will be freely available to all residents. This is an example of how we can provide a proportion of our own food in a way that is enjoyable, social and environmentally friendly.

Orchards can bring many benefits to the communities they are in:• It would enable a proportion of the fruit consumed by our community to be locally grown, meaning that it would generate no greenhouse gas emissions.  While negligible in itself, this would support the growing appreciation that action on climate change needs to happen at all levels of society.• As such, it would provide a useful pilot project for further community initiatives across Edinburgh and further afield.• It would develop biodiversity and leisure resource in currently underused sections of parkland in Portobello.• It would provide a valuable educational resource for local children and schools, which we hope will become involved in caring for the orchard, and using the space educationally.• It would strengthen the sense of local community, specifically amongst the group who take care of the site, as they will need to work together at several different times of year. More generally, it will create a focus for wider community activity, through social and educational events, provision of seating and fresh, locally grown food.

The Orchard group is interested in being involved in tree planting and maintenance, as well as harvesting of the fruit. We are planning to put funding applications together, which would pay for the trees, training for the group, and possibly some initial social and educational events to promote community use of the resource.

We would like to plant a range of fruiting trees such as apples, pears, plums etc, particularly focusing on a range of unusual, old and local varieties. We would also like to plant some lower growing soft fruit bushes such as currants, gooseberries etc. We have also considered planting some useful trees, such as willow and hazel, which could be coppiced and used to make fencing or seating for the area, or for craft activities such as basket weaving. There might also be potential for other projects such as a medicinal herb garden and bee hives.

We are committed to working with schools and local youth to help spread the skills and appreciation of local food growing, as well as to pre-empt possible vandalism of the site.

Edinburgh Garden Share Scheme

Do you have dif­fi­culty look­ing after your garden?  Could you share it with someone who will care for and use it?

Or per­haps you’d like to grow fruit, veget­ables or flowers but don’t have access to a garden?

PEDAL is work­ing with Care and Repair Edinburgh to run a garden share scheme in Portobello. This matches garden own­ers with volun­teers who are look­ing for a bit of space to grow things on. Folk who are anxious because their gar­dens are get­ting out of hand can find help from volun­teers, and could also receive an agreed share of the pro­duce.  Volunteers look­ing for some­where to grow their own can enjoy a safe, rent free space in return for some of the pro­duce or a bit of help with tend­ing the garden.

Portobello Organic Market

You might not have space or time to grow your own, or just don’t fancy get­ting dirty, but still want fresh local, organic food.  To com­ple­ment Portobello’s already vibrant and thriv­ing High Street, and provide a wider range of organic pro­duce, we want to start up a new monthly mar­ket selling local and organic fruit, veg, meat, bak­ing, and more.  Although food will be the core of the mar­ket, we also want to include a selec­tion of local crafts and other organic products. Please con­tact us if there is some­thing spe­cific that you would like to see at the market.

We are cur­rently look­ing for stall­hold­ers so if you are inter­ested in hav­ing a stall, please con­tact us. The mar­ket will sell only loc­ally pro­duced and/or organic goods, as out­lined in our Stallholders Policy. We are keen to sup­port estab­lished Portobello traders. We also want to encour­age more local people to start up their own food or craft busi­nesses, or have a go at selling what they already pro­duce at home or in their garden. If there is enough interest, PEDAL will have a stall spe­cific­ally for local small/home pro­du­cers.For inform­a­tion on the pro­gress of this pro­ject you can sign-up to receive our email updates, or just watch this space for more details!