Redcatch Community Garden: “Pause for a while and enjoy getting back to nature”

With its café and pop-up restaurant evenings, Redcatch Community Garden shows just what a community can achieve with a vision for a connected, healthy and communal space, welcoming to all. Co-founder Kate Swain writes about their two-year journey.

Redcatch Community Garden (RCG) is on the site of an old bowling green in Redcatch Park in Knowle. We were established only two years ago by a group of passionate volunteers, led by myself and Michael Cardwell an experienced events manager. Together we established RCG as a Community Benefit Society and as such are rooted locally to meet our aims of benefiting the whole community by creating a space where people could come together to learn about growing, healthy eating and socialise together.

We believe that creating a sustainable society is about weaving change into peoples’ day-to-day lives. What we do is accessible and affordable to local people, which makes it an easier choice for people to make. At RCG we are striving to find a balance of using products, materials and processes which are ethical, sustainable, affordable, healthy and local. That is a long list of desires and sometimes we need to compromise, but it’s a great starting point!

When it comes to produce, we are finding this balance can be achieved through growing our own and either simply selling it straight out of the ground, or in a soup or chilli. Our shop sells fruit and vegetables that are grown on site, as well as other food products, such as honey made from our resident bees. We also operate a non-single use plastic approach and customers are encouraged to BYO or invest in a bag for life (or just carry items!)

Our future ambitions are huge. Next year we hope to work more closely with organisations and retailers to take unwanted produce and foods as part of our Abundance project, which aims to divert food waste from landfill to tummies!

We are a supporter of the closed loop (or circular economy) approach – our coffee cups and other tableware are compostable and get collected to be composted in our commercial compost bin aptly named Beatrix Rotter! Some of our customers love this as it fits well with their life choices, other don’t even notice and are only interested in a great (ethical) cup of coffee, but the outcome is the same. This is an example of how we as businesses can take responsibility for greener lifestyle choices and support Going for Gold

Here’s a super fact – we estimate that 95% of all materials used to make RCG a success is unused, unwanted, donated, second-hand, from our events marquee to the sleepers we use for our vegetable beds. We love this. It shows what can be achieved and afforded if your last thought is “new”.

Education is key to successfully meeting the aims that are central to RCG and Going for Gold. We have children visit from local pre-schools and schools, who love to get involved in growing and harvesting and learning about how, where and when things grow.

The social impact of our project has been fantastic. We provide a reason to stop and talk over a coffee or a runner bean and this develops into regular meet-ups and friendships. Life can be busy, stressful and full-on, but it’s great to be part of something which gives people a space to pause for a while and enjoy getting back to nature. One day we will all want a reason to stop and it’s important we all think now, where will this be for me? 

Running the Garden can be challenging. However, we are constantly overwhelmed by support from our community and details of what coming to RCG means to them, whether it’s allowing a frazzled parent to have a cuppa, volunteers who have found a home for their skills or learnt a new one or simply visitors wondering around the veg.

See what you can achieve if your last thought was “new”!

Kate Swain is a co-founder of Redcatch Community Garden. She has a background in Carbon Management sector, which has motivated her passion for sustainable food systems.

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