Today is the start of Great Big Green Week (24 September – 2 October) and so I’d like to take the opportunity to celebrate Bristol Council’s Blaise Plant Nursery’s commitment to protect nature, support climate action, and tackle food poverty through its successful Community Plant Donation project. I’m also pleased to share some videos that show how this scheme supports community action tackling food poverty and climate change.
The plant nursery at Blaise Estate has been operating for more than 30 years. The team at the nursery work hard to reduce its impact on the environment and lower its carbon emissions as much as possible. The nursery produces all of its own electricity using solar panels, its staff use zero-emission ex-milk floats to move around the site, and they water young plants by hand from a borehole on the estate to reduce consumption. All the plants are grown in peat-free compost, biodegradable mulch mats are used wherever possible, and the plant pots and trays are recycled. Waste timber is recycled into biomass fuel and the nursery is wildlife friendly with bird feeding tables and bee hives dotted around the site.
Part of the great work the team do is the Community Plant Donation project. This spring, 10,000 vegetable and soft fruit seedlings were delivered to 50 food growing community groups in Bristol so they could help supply food banks, community cafes and schools to support people in need. As well as providing fresh, locally grown, healthy food to families and foodbanks, the plant donation project has also had a wider positive impact on communities. You can find out more about all the good work in the following short videos:
· A group of young adults with special education needs and disabilities have been learning how to nurture a garden at Victoria Park Veg Patch.
· People struggling with their mental health have benefited from being surrounded by nature and the feeling of wellbeing it brings through the social prescribing scheme at The Ardagh.
· Residents in BS13 have been learning how to grow their own food, how to eat more healthily and how this can help the environment at Heart of BS13.
· At Companion Planting in Speedwell people come together to teach their children about food and sharing food from their culture.
· The Redcatch community garden in Knowle uses the produce they grow at their café and sell it in their shop to raise money to put back into their neighbourhood.
· All the plants at the Blaise Plant Nursery are grown in environmentally friendly peat-free compost and are free of pesticides which is important to Edible Bristol.
The Community Plant Donation project started in April 2020 when the council’s plant nursery in Lawrence Weston had to close its shop because of the COVID-19 lockdown. The shop was fully stocked with fruit and vegetable seedlings at the time and so that they wouldn’t go to waste staff from the nursery and parks department delivered the plants to community growing groups who were delivering food to people who were shielding or growing food for food banks. The plant donations project had such a positive impact on communities that it received funding from the council’s Climate and Ecological Emergency Programme in 2021 and this year to continue to scale it up.
We are now facing a different kind of crisis. The rising costs of fuel, food and other essentials means there are households at even greater risk of hardship and wellbeing and so the continued success of the plant donation project is even more important.
Bristol was awarded Gold Sustainable Food City status in May 2021 by the UK’s independent, Sustainable Food Places Board. The plant donation project supports Bristol’s commitment to maintaining this status by increasing the amount of nature friendly, low carbon food growing in the city and supporting food equality by improving access to nutritious, affordable and sustainably sourced food.