Larbert District Childminders are a group of childcare professionals based around the Larbert area in Falkirk, who took it upon themselves to set up a brand-new community growing space to benefit their charges.
In early 2022, this group of go-getting childminders was delighted to be able to meet in person and organise activities together again, having missed out on these social outings due to Covid. After a brief discussion, they hit on the idea of a shared allotment as a way to benefit the children, themselves, and the local community.
“There has been a lot of hard work involved from the early days of filling in the very detailed grant application to planting out the allotment but it is great to see the reaction of the children when they visit. They love getting involved and we’re looking forward to lots of happy times spent here.” – member May Rookes
At the end of January, they applied for a grant from Falkirk Food Futures, as managed by Forth Environment Link. The application was successful, and in early March they were awarded funding of £5,688. This money, alongside the gift of a small plot in the grounds of Larbert Old Church on Denny Road, meant they were ready to get growing.
The grant went towards equipment to ensure every child was able to take part; raised beds; an accessible polytunnel; and seeds to start their garden.
The Larbert District Childminders group and children worked very hard, manually digging out the space and building everything themselves as much as possible. They were assisted by the wider community.
One fantastic bonus is that the children, in their early years, have built relationships with other users of the allotments. There are proven benefits to both age groups when children and the elderly interact.
“’It’s such a great feeling of accomplishment to see the look of enjoyment and excitement on the children’s faces when they visit the allotment. They have been learning how to care for the plants and harvest the fruit and vegetables.” “The children have seen the whole life cycle of what they have grown, from plot to plate.” – Hazel Donaldson, Larbert Childminders Association
The first season’s crops were very successful, with the children and childminders all learning about the different needs of each of the vegetables they planted and cultivated. So far they have enjoyed peas, corn on the cob, pumpkins, cucumber, lettuce, potatoes, tomatoes, aubergines, leeks, carrots, strawberries and rhubarb, and as of October 2022, they are planting for winter: more leeks and potatoes, but also onions, turnips and brussels sprouts.
An apple tree and blueberry bush have been planted with eyes to the future, teaching the children about having patience and planning for the time ahead, rather than focusing only on quick-growing fruit and herbs.
This activity gives children a first-hand introduction to how vegetables are grown, and makes the process exciting. Because they are investing their own time, energy and excitement into the allotment, they are enthusiastic about eating the vegetables – even the unfamiliar ones!
Another aspect of the project that has been well received is the on-site kitchen in the garden shed. Rather than keep the shed for storage, the Childminders invested in enough equipment to prepare and cook simple dishes from their own produce, such as seasonal soups.
The Larbert and District Childminders have demonstrated what a relatively small pot of money can achieve when coupled with creativity, foresight, and a community coming together. The grant from the UK Community Renewal Fund has given the Larbert Allotment Association a breath of new life, introducing a new generation to the joy of growing food. This project is an excellent example of the type of grassroots movement that will benefit the area for many years to come, and of what can be achieved when a community is given space to grow, and the funding to seed their dreams.