Mark Humphries, of Greener Growth, looks back at a year of success for the Suffolk community interest company
At the end of our financial year Greener Growth has more than tripled its activity in the last 12 months, and that is with a moderate-sized team and resources.
As a community interest company, that is unusual. Many of our good news stories have already been covered in this newspaper, but we felt it right to bring you up to date with what is going on.
The number of our schools projects have seen a huge increase over the last year: we are passionate about educating children outdoors. Many of the schools have areas that can be used, but do not have the staff or resources to put into their sites; that is where we come in. If the schools did not develop these outdoor learning areas the green spaces and wild places could disappear, and as a company we are working at stopping this as much as possible, helping to create low-maintenance, high-yielding food-producing gardens that are also nature havens.
We are thankful to the local councillors and Bury St Edmunds Town Council for their support which has helped us to cover and survey more wards around the town, looking for green spaces that can be protected and enhanced by community or schools’ kitchen and wildlife gardens . You might have seen us in your area. If you do see us working around the town please stop and say hello.
As we mentioned in our previous column, we are also working in some of the prisons around the region. It is good news that we have been given the go-ahead for our second project at HMP Whitemoor in Cambridgeshire. Be assured that these projects are having a positive affect on the prisoners, and their lifestyles.
There is an element of wholeness in our work that is not only happening in the lives of the group participants in prison and schools that we work in. We often receive feedback from the staff groups in these places about the impact that this work is having on their lives, a boost for staff morale and that is always encouraging to hear.
What is important for us now is to capture all of this evidence, and generate data that further proves the impact of growing food and protecting nature. To do this we are looking to work with a new team member – Hannah Wright, an environmental psychologist. Her book, Outside Time, focuses on farming in the prison estate and has been a source of inspiration to all of us at Greener Growth. Up until the early 1970s, 45 prison farms used to provision the whole prison population across the UK. The percentage of reoffending was very much lower. We can learn a lot from sustainable practices from the past which can inform our future.
Another new initiative in Bury is our work with David Marjoram, of Gusto Pronto, a great believer in wildlife conservation and its impact on children’s education. We have now worked on establishing two new wildlife gardens at The Crown, in Hartest, and The Cadogan, in Ingham. Why not take your children along and see if they can spot the insect hotels, wildlife wigwams, hedgehog boxes, and the bird, bat and owl boxes?
We also work with Cambs Cuisine in Cambridgeshire.
I posted our previous column on to my social media sites and, from that, a greater interest in prison reformation has taken place; and I have been booked for more public speaking engagements. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to book me to talk at your event, or church group, or even if you want to know more about what I do.
Finally – a great team boost – we won the Green / Environment Award at the Bury Free Press Awards event at the Apex. A great chance to get smart (get those leaves out of our hair for once) and network with the great and good from Bury St Edmunds’ business community. What a great town this is – and we are so enjoying helping make it just a little bit greener – with your help!
Thank you all for a fabulous year.