This month’s social media output from the Cyrenians is on the subject of food, community and our dream that everyone should have ‘something to eat and someone to eat it with’.
Food has always been a central pillar of the Cyrenians work. The core of volunteers that formed the charity in 1968 had previously set up and run a cafe in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket for the rough sleepers from the area. Ever since, eating has been a part of daily life at Cyrenians projects, particularly in the farm and city communities.
Myself and the farm team are now endeavouring to take things a little further and find the farm’s place in the growing Food Sovereignty movement.
Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.
Declaration of Nyéléni
According to the Nyéléni Synthesis Report, the Six pillars of food sovereignty are:
Focusing on food for people, valuing food providers, localizing food systems, putting control locally, building knowledge and skills and working with nature.
If you’ve been following my blogs or any of the other news to leave the farm you’ll see and understand how past and current farm activities fit that ideology. Everyone is welcome at the farm to come and work, talk, learn, eat and occasionally play. We journey with people as they learn about healthy eating, cooking and growing. We sell our vegetables at competitive and affordable prices. We’re partnering with a diverse range of community groups who can now learn, from us, how to sell some of their own fresh produce to improve the sustainability of their projects. Through these partnerships we are possibly creating the embryo of a new short supply chain for fruit and veg from micro-growers and new starts. This broadens our social reach and may give the local food economy in our area a bit of a lift. Our re-conversion to organic certification enshrines our commitment to growing our produce while stewarding the land.
We’re also breaking new ground with our neighbors (the Scottish War Blinded) by helping them to renovate a long abandoned walled garden which is the only remaining building left of the once grand Linburn Estate at Wilkieston. We are doing this with the help of staff from the JP Morgan office in Edinburgh who are going to join us in groups of ten on Tuesdays for at least a couple of years. This project (now titled ‘Unearthed’) brings together many of these elements and uses food, both eating and growing it, to forge new community bonds. The farm will gain new ground in a protected fertile space to grow our crops, the Scottish War Blinded members will get ‘pottering rights,’ their awesome, 4 acre walled garden refurbished and a share of the produce for their canteen where their members have lunch. The staff from JPM will get a chance to bond with new team mates and place their company firmly back into the broader Edinburgh community. As the project develops we’ll open up other routes for JPM staff to help us to help other vulnerable people in the community. Obviously, we all eat lunch together when working on this project as well. Our volunteer, Karen McRoberts, has cooked up a couple of delicious curries for us on these days.
I cannot describe how good it feels, in this day and age, to have such open commitment from such different organisations toward a project which focuses on Community and Food Sovereignty. I’d particularly like to thank Jim Thomson, site manager of the Linburn Centre and Murray Bremner, Managing Director of the JPM Edinburgh Campus for sharing this vision and pulling strings to help me make it happen. It just goes to show what good things can happen when opinions and wants converge.
So, if you come to the farm at lunch time, grab a plate, help yourself to some food, sit on a bale next to someone you don’t know, eat, chat and see what positive schemes and dreams unfold. Just be quick, us farmers and gardeners are a hungry bunch.