Community food project in the Highlands keeps on growing
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A community food growing project in Inverness is spreading its roots after joining forces with a city medical practice,
Incredible Edible Inverness, which aims to establish vegetable and herb plots around the city, has been given permission to set up a growing space at Cairn Medical Practice in Culduthel Road.
The group, formed six months ago, is the UK's most northerly one in the Incredible Edible Network which originated in the Yorkshire town of Todmorden.
The idea is to plant up spare pieces of ground with fresh produce and to encourage people to take what they need while bringing communities together.
Wendy Price, chairwoman of the Inverness group, said volunteers had come together this summer to grow vegetables and herbs in three planters near the city's cathedral.
Thanks to donated plants from the GROW Project at Inverness Botanic Gardens, the group produced crops such as kale, fennel, mint, rocket, beetroot, spring onions and nasturtiums.
"We started as a result of Covid-19 after we saw lots more people were interested in buying local food," she said.
"We know other Incredible Edible groups link up with medical practices because of the wonderful synergy between patient therapy and vegetable growing.
"We came across an area at the Cairn practice and thought it would be perfect.
"We were delighted to be given permission to develop a food growing area at the front of the practice and, although very early days in the project, we now have a raised bed created from an old pallet which has been planted with winter mustards and radishes and is ready for more plants in the spring.
"Long term, we have plans for more raised beds, pollinating flowers and even some fruit trees and bushes with the priority being the creation of food available for everyone but also therapy for patients from the practice who may benefit from a bit of gentle gardening."
Mrs Price hoped it would lead to more areas around the city being planted.
"There is such a lot of enthusiasm for the green agenda," she said.
"I think there is huge potential for it to take off but we need to start small and make sure we are sustainable.
"The idea is to grow fruit and vegetables in any spare land we are allowed to.
"We are not guerilla gardeners. We encourage people to help themselves."
She acknowledged people seemed reticient to help themselves but having spoken to another group in Dumfries and Galloway she believed this would change.
"It can take a while for people to really recognise it is for anyone to use," she said.
Dr Andrew Dallas, of the Cairn Medical Practice, welcomed the venture.
"As a practice we are looking for ways to practice more 'climate smart' healthcare," he said.
"We have several other initiatives, such as the various projects designed to promote other forms of activity.
"Though in its infancy, we hope that in time this project will be another resource to draw upon.
"We know that the delivery of healthcare contributes around five per cent to our nation's emissions and we know that climate breakdown will have disastrous consequences for health but the solutions to these issues are often exciting and inspiring."
He said time spent in green space, gardening and among nature, for example, were useful and legitimate healthcare interventions and sometimes a far more appropriate and useful prescription than medication.
"Elsewhere in the UK there are fantastic examples of such 'green prescriptions' and we hope that someday soon we will have more options to refer our patients for time spent gardening or time spent in nature." he said.
"It is good for our patients and it is good for our planet!For now, we feel that just the sight of Incredible Edible's initial raised beds makes a start in delivering this important health message."
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