City: Pontypool, Torfaen, Wales
Cold Barn farm is a centre for youth activity, which is dedicated to children and young people and making a difference in their lives. The allotment project started in 2006 when a group of young people showed an interest in growing their own vegetables.
Photos courtesy of The National Allotment Society
How it began
The young people adopted a small area at the front of Cold barn farm but, although very successful at first, proved to be too small an area for the interest shown. We were fortunate to own some land around the building so we set out to dig larger bases for our allotments. We fenced off the area in question, and the young people spent a few hard days digging to achieve five allotment arrears.
These particular allotments ran for two years, and produced some great vegetables and salad crops. We did however have a few problems, firstly the young people did not enjoy all the bending down; secondly, when it rained, everyone got wet and muddy.
After consultation with the young people and volunteers, we applied for funding to build raised beds and paved pathways to ensure that the site would be useable in the wet as well as dry weather. We secured funding and started work on the raised beds.
The site was cleared and timber raised beds were erected, making planting a joy for the young people, and weeding a doddle. By making the allotment area much easier to work the young people showed much more interest in the project and really took ownership of it.
The vegetables were, and still are, cooked by and for the young people in the centre ensuring that all those who use the centre get to eat healthy home grown produce.
Poly tunnel project
After further consultation with the young people, they asked if they could have a green house to grow more exotic plants and vegetables. We were fortunate enough to secure funding from the tidy towns fund in order to purchase a poly tunnel.
The poly tunnel has enabled us to grow vegetables a lot earlier than normal as well as plant vegetables and flowers much earlier. This has resulted in many more plants than needed, so we have donated the surplus to other youth clubs and OAP complexes. We have also secured a deal with our local green grocer next year to sell on all our seedlings that we don’t need. This offers the community locally grown produce, therefore reducing the carbon foot print and allowing us to fund next years seeds and compost.
Another big bonus with the poly tunnel is that we can work in it whatever the weather and grow crops all year round, as well as grow more exotic plants such as peppers and chillies.
We are a very busy and creative youth activity centre and find ourselves using large amounts of willow for arts & crafts and all around the allotment. This is not only an expensive resource to buy but often can come from far distances.
With this in mind, cold Barn Farm with the help of BTCV planted a willow and bamboo plantation on site four years ago with the view to using it in the allotments and youth centre. Due to much interest from other community groups and community allotments, we now supply two allotments and the drama and youth services with free willow. Our young people harvest and show other allotment holders the many uses willow has for allotment sites. We also use it for arts and craft activities.
This summer the young people will be building a bird hide from willow. This has come from a big interest in bird watching amongst our youth club members. We have installed a very busy bird feeding station that is attracting many different species.
A cosy kitchen to teach families how to cook healthy meals on a budget: we currently have 10 families who attend weekly, and the mums and dads take turns in cooking for the group. Although the cosy kitchen was set up as a cooking project it has also turned into a great opportunity for the group to socialise. The group has taken on numerous learning opportunities since attending cosy kitchen, such as Maths and English. The group also helps out in the allotment, and a few of the mums use the gym on a regular basis.
Cooperation with Abersychan comprehensive school and Torfaen youth service
Cold Barn farm allotments are working closely with Abersychan comprehensive school and Torfaen youth service on a project called ASDAN. The project aims to include young people who find themselves close to expulsion from school. A group of ten young people come to Cold barn Farm weekly, and have recently started work on the allotment extension. They have done all the ground works and built the new raised beds.
The young people are currently working on erecting an additional poly tunnel at the site. Although each young person comes with his/her own issues, they are all engaging well and enjoying the gardening work. We have learned that even the most disruptive young people will work hard when given a leadership role and a project with which they can be "hands on". In fact, the school teachers have noticed a marked improvement in the young people’s attendance and behaviour since they first started the project.
Links and other sources
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