Dr Jane Davidson, Chair of Steering Group

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The Growing the Future project was originated to help people in Wales grow their own food more successfully.

It did that by offering training and information close to where people live and in practical, short courses using trainers with years of experience growing their own food. These trainers shared their tips and vital advice with over 5000 participants at hubs based throughout Wales.

At the heart of the Growing the Future project, was the National Botanic Garden of Wales, from where the project was managed.  At the Garden, dedicated classrooms and demonstration plots have provided perfect learning spaces for many courses. You can visit one of those spaces, the Growing the Future Garden, to see how fruit and vegetables can be grown in even the smallest of garden spaces. 

Message from Dr Jane Davidson, Chair of the Growing the Future Steering Group

The Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act will come into forcein April 2016. This Welsh Act is unique in that it will require publicservices in Wales to demonstrate actively how they are contributing to a more sustainable Wales and could see Wales transformed by new growing opportunities across generations, whether in allotments, schools, universities, hospital grounds or vacant land. The new Act encourages communities across Wales to think more sustainably to create the ‘Wales we Want’ and that could mean a lot more local growing.

At the moment only a small amount of the food produced in Wales is grown locally, yet as someone who left the city to run a 10 acre smallholding 5 years ago, we are already heading for semi-self-sufficiency on our land – helped along by 3 freezers, a stone storage shed and 2 polytunnels. What we’ve also found is that growing and buying locally sourced produce forms a strong connection with our local economy and communities; encourages us to source more of our food locally and in season and makes us think how we can manage our ecosystem sustainably. As someone on my own growing journey, I wasdelighted therefore to be asked by Dr Rosie Plummer to chair the SteeringGroup for the exciting ‘Growing the Future’ project which started in 2012.

What does it take to encourage a new grower to pick up a fork? There is somuch more interest in seasonal food now, so people will happily eat local produce when they eat out, but don’t realise they could grow it at home. This project has been exciting and varied with a whole range of new courses and programmes throughout Wales from growing to pruning to bee-keeping with over 18,500 hours put in by participants.After all, what’s not to like about taking up an activity that gives you your own fresh fruit and vegetables and saves money on food shopping, and also,according to our participants, increases life satisfaction, exercise and vitality levels, connections with the Earth and with family and strengthens ties within the local community

This project has exceeded all its targets so as a Steering Group, a huge thanks to the Growing the Future team for all their work and to all my colleagues on the Steering Group for their regular support and advice. Course participants rated the courses as good/excellent and there is an appetite for more. There are still huge shortages in horticultural trainers; too few young peopleare choosing horticulture as a career and there is not enough emphasis on the value of local food growing. This is a challenge for educators and growers. Steering Group members now want to work with the National Botanic Garden of Wales to ensure that the messages from the project are disseminated to policy makers so that the project becomes a springboard to a growingrevolution in Wales.

Dr Jane Davidson

Associate Pro Vice Chancellor, Sustainability and Engagement

University of Wales, Trinity Saint David

Chair Growing the Future Steering Group.