TCV’s Jupiter Growing Together was awarded £11,740 by Falkirk Food Futures as administered by Forth Environment Link in 2022. The grant went directly into facilitating peer-to-peer instruction and skills-building in a deprived area, giving hard-to-reach individuals an opportunity to grow their confidence and self-esteem by removing the barriers to volunteering.
Jupiter Growing Together is an ongoing project between The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) and Jupiter Wildlife Urban Centre, located in Grangemouth. In 2022 Falkirk Food Futures, administered by Forth Environment Link, was able to award £11,740 to the project to ensure continuation.
TCV is an organisation working in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland, helping people change their lives by connecting them with local natural heritage and community green spaces. By inviting people to get outdoors and get involved with practical, enjoyable activities outdoors, they are providing a real way for those in deprived areas to connect both with the natural world and with their communities.
“Jupiter is a wonderful place to visit, for all sorts of reasons. Tending and weeding at Jupiter helps heal your soul, and keeps your mind tended and weeded!” – Susan, volunteer
Jupiter Wildlife Urban Centre is Scotland’s largest wildlife garden. Created on a derelict railway marshalling yard between 1989 and 1992, the garden now has wetlands, marshlands and woodlands, all of which are home to diverse native flora and fauna. It is an incredible example of how wasteland or land used for industrial creation can be repurposed into something beneficial for the local area.
Growing Together is TCV’s food growing programme that gives long-term unemployed people an opportunity to learn new skills in a peaceful setting. Volunteers are referred to the project by a variety of other local organisations and charities, as well as the Community Link Worker and local Occupational Therapists. The broad goal is to invite adults with barriers to volunteering to get involved. The project tackles some of the issues of isolation and lower rates of physical activity that were a result of Covid restrictions, as well as giving people without their own gardens access to a suitable space to grow their own food.
TCV brings in volunteers to demonstrate new skills, giving them the chance to be empowered through peer-to-peer learning. Activities may include making things out of recycled timber as well as raising fruit, vegetables and herbs. The location in the middle of Grangemouth is ideal as a natural space accessible to people living in one of Central Scotland’s more deprived areas.
“Volunteering at Jupiter gives me a wonderful sense of getting back to nature. I have been taught new skills, working with wood and plants. Knowing that my contribution is providing items to folk not as lucky as me is very fulfilling.
“It is also great company at Jupiter, and I enjoy meeting new people with similar interests.” – Peter, volunteer
The Falkirk Food Futures grant enabled TCV to continue the project that first began pre-Covid. Following the pandemic, TCV knew that the activities of Growing Together would be more important than ever for the local area.
Giving people who face barriers to volunteering or employment a reason to socialise, learn new skills, and work in nature, has seen a huge range of benefits. Volunteers say Growing Together gives them a sense of purpose as well as a much-needed confidence boost.
The garden covers a 280sqm of growing space, and includes a small orchard and soft fruit area. There is also a polytunnel, which means growing year-round, and vegetable beds. Within the allocated space there is also a dedicated wildlife garden, taking inspiration from the wider natural space surrounding them, which provides a space for social events and barbecues.
Each week, four 2-hour sessions are run for up to 28 participants. These include planting vegetable beds, sowing and harvesting, composting, natural fertiliser creation, companion planting, and creating wildflower areas for pollinators and wildlife. Wood workshops see the volunteers building compost bins and planters. Sessions are always tailored to the specific needs of individual volunteers, and are completely accessible.
“As keen gardeners we have enjoyed our one day per week over the last four years helping to make the garden at Jupiter as productive as possible and to learn and share our knowledge of gardening.
“We are both in our late seventies and can confirm that life is better in the garden among like minded folk.” – David and Susan, volunteers
Funding from Falkirk Food Futures meant TCV were able to increase SPO hours to run more sessions; build more raised vegetable beds, including raising existing beds to improve accessibility for disabled users; buy organic seeds for planting; buy and supply the correct tools and PPE for volunteers; and to run monthly cookout social events.
In this instance, Falkirk Food Futures was able to recognise the incredible benefit of a long-running, established project that benefits some of the hardest-to-reach people in a deprived area, and give them meaningful assistance to continue and expand their work.
Sometimes, recognising existing projects run by expert organisations is the best way to connect with a disenfranchised community and give them something meaningful. By giving TCV a grant of £11,740, Falkirk Food Futures has enabled a local project to reach its full potential.