October 22, 2014
Growing in the wind
Polytunnels have become a familiar sight throughout the country. They are however vulnerable to strong winds and the shredded remains after a big blow are also a common sight. In the Western Isles, where storms are the winter norm, the community use a system specially designed in the Shetlands to withstand the strongest of winds. The community at Horshader on Lewis are up for a SURF award for their efforts to provide affordable fruit and veg in the face of testing conditions.
Horshader Community Development has announced that the Community Growing Project has been nominated and subsequently shortlisted for the 2014 Surf Awards for best practice in community regeneration.
The Growing project team and members of Horshader Community Development are due to meet with the award judges early in November at the projects focal point in Shawbost, to discuss this innovative community project.
The Horshader Community Growing Project has seen five large polytunnels erected in Shawbost and another in Dalmore. Members of the community have taken up the opportunity to become allotment holders, while Head Gardener, David Murdo Mackay, is busy getting a large range of produce ready to sell to the community.
The polytunnels, known as Polycrubs, are native to Shetland and have been specifically designed to survive up to force 12 winds.
The idea and drive for the Growing Project came from a consultation with the communities of Horshader Community Development.
Angela Macleod, Development Manager said: “We are absolutely delighted to have been short listed for this fabulous award. Our project is a real grass roots initiative which reflects the aspirations of our community, and it is very rewarding to see the community benefit.
“Our area has a high level of fuel poverty with 47% estimated at the last count, therefore, the availability of affordable fruit and vegetables, with opportunities for families in the area to grow their own in community allotment tunnels, is extremely beneficial.”
The polytunnels have become a hub of the community and a place for people to get to know one another while growing fruit and veg. There is a great feeling of comradery in the allotment polytunnels, both at the site in Shawbost and Dalmore.
The project, which has been delivered by Horshader Community Development in partnership with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, attracted financial support both from the council and the Climate Challenge Fund.
Councillor Alastair Macleod, Chair of the Comhairle’s Sustainable Development Committee said: “The Comhairle was pleased to support the Horshader Community Growing project by confirming a successful Community Capital Grant Fund award.
“We have already seen within a short number of months, a number of positive spin-offs such as local jobs, carbon savings and learning within the community. We are pleased to see the project develop and receive recognition locally and nationally.”
Horshader Community Development is a trust established in 2004, essentially to build and run a community owned wind turbine for the villages of South Shawbost, Dalbeag and Dalmore.
As well as employing a Head Gardener the growing scheme has also employed an Outreach Officer Megan Macdonald.
Megan says: “One of the aims of the project is to reduce carbon emissions throughout the lifetime of the project, which will be achieved through growing fresh produce; reducing car usage; reduction in food waste through various CO2 reduction activities and cookery demonstrations; installation of a rainwater irrigation system and harvesting, all of which are well under way.”
The Surf Award is designed to recognise and celebrate community led regeneration, with the aim of rewarding best practises in the involvement of communities leading regeneration strategies and processes. It is a great honour to be shortlisted alongside two other community led regeneration projects in Scotland, more information will be released following the November visit.
The trust has recently purchased the Inn Between, which will be partly used for office premises, and further developments following consultation with the Horshader Community, which will in line with our community plan. The trust is also pleased to announce that they will be taking delivery of a community minibus early in the New Year.