Public outreach is an important aspect of any botanic gardens work, but some community groups are much more difficult to engage with than others. Sometimes we may not even be aware which sectors of a community are under-represented in the first place. If you wish to grow your garden audience to include and encourage new sectors of your community, why not design your own social inclusion project?
Read the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s “Edible Gardening for All” Project report to find out how you can develop a project that will engage with under-represented groups whilst tackling important community issues.
You can also watch the “Edible Gardening for All” video to gain an insight into the project from the participants themselves:
The Edible Gardening project had already been running for 10 months when RBGE got involved with BGCI’S Communities in Nature programme. They then revised their project aim to “develop their existing Edible Gardening project by involving a wider audience and encouraging segments of the community that have until now proved difficult to engage with.”
The project teaches people the skills and knowledge they need to grow their own food, providing both a practical and meaningful connection to plants, and an introduction to a more sustainable way of life.
Previous focus groups at the garden had shown that young people and communities within areas of multiple deprivation have felt that the garden is “not for them”. As a result, RBGE used the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation to learn more about their community, and then worked with partners in these areas to identify the following groups to collaborate with for the project:
- Broughton High School – Part of the Scottish Government’s “More Choices, More Chances” initiative to reduce the number of young people not in education, employment or training.
- The Rock Trust – aims to prevent youth homelessness and to support young people to build better futures.
- Kaimes Special School – a school for children and young people who require support in the area of social communication, social interaction and flexibility of thinking. Most of the pupils have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
- Pilton Community Heath Project which works with local people to take steps towards better health, and Mayfield and Easthouses Youth 2000 Project (YK2000) which provides a safe environment for young people to socialize, get help or support and try new activities. Both groups attended one off day visits consisting of a tour, garden activity and field kitchen cooking event.
Groups from the two schools and The Rock Trust visited on a weekly basis throughout the summer, each tending their own plot. As well as planting and maintaining their crops, all of the participants were involved in a field kitchen event where they were shown how to harvest, prepare and cook the food they had grown. The groups then reaped the benefits of all their hard work and collaboration by sharing a healthy group meal.
The project worked wonders in changing particpants’ perceptions of the garden, but most importantly it helped give them confidence and inspired many of them to try growing their own food at home, as the quotes below demonstrate:
- More positive view of the garden
“Fresh food gets planted and harvested and [the garden] is a place to get away and think.”
“I think the garden initiative has made it more accessible.”
“I found sanctuary from the city.”
- Learning to grow their own food
“I learnt something new; I found out about growing veg and tasted something new, peas, soup and fresh parsley.”
“I shall also try to develop a vegetable patch, I really enjoyed the veg garden at RBGE, I even tried peas, lettuce and eating flowers!”
- Increased confidence
Many of the young people involved reported that they felt more confident speaking to people and working in a group, with several of them considering horticultural careers as a result of taking part in the project.
- Healthy eating
“About soup being a healthy alternative to sausage rolls. Eating healthy options.”
- New-found enthusiasm for the importance of plants
“It has made me want a wormery and to eat more foods produced by plants, I would also like my own botanical garden to grow my own food and rare plants and trees.”
Not only did the participants learn from the experience, but RBGE and its staff did too, so much so that the Communities in Nature project has influenced future plans for their Demonstration Garden. They now aim to “create a designed space within RBGE where visitors and learners of all ages can interact, or observe interactions with growing plants in a variety of ways’.
For more inspiration and ideas on how to work with your local community, including more details on activity planning and participant feedback, read the “Edible Gardening for All” project report.