Campy Growers is based in Dundee and made up of an eclectic group bound by a desire to grow food locally for nutrition, mental health, educational, community and climate mitigation benefits.
In this post, Bioregioning Tayside talked with Kate Treharne to hear more about their story.
Can you talk a bit about yourself, your project, and the journey you have been on to get to this point?
Campy Growers is an eclectic group bound by a desire to grow food locally for nutrition, mental health, educational, community and climate mitigation benefits. We were brought together by a feasibility study looking at transferring Dundee City Council’s plant nursery over to community ownership. Although many of us knew each other through other projects, this is a dream team united to deliver a major urban growing project for Dundee.
Polytunnel at Campy Growers
What was your inspiration or motivation to do what you do?
We know that the current food system has an enormous carbon footprint. This has to change by shortening supply chains and shifting diets to more local produce. But this is about much more than climate breakdown: we want to therapise the whole city with the experience of growing fresh food and eating it too.
What kinds of expertise or skills do you have or have learned that help you in your work?
I have been a Research Scientist, Horticultural Therapist and now set up community gardens across the city. The Campy Growers group includes dieticians, community workers, mental health workers, therapists and academics. We are all focused on solving problems sustainably and long-term.
How would you describe your relationship to place or to the natural world around you and the environment you live and work in?
Personally, I am totally embedded in the nature around me. In my immediate garden I have over a dozen different species of bird and several nests. I have a pond where frogs spawn annually and the song thrush collects mud to line her nest. My garden is set up for them and the various native bee species. It is a magnet for wildlife and children. I despair when I see the way Dundee’s greenspace is managed with scant regard for struggling wildlife when it could be a hugely beneficial resource.
We are still enduring this terrible covid crisis and I wonder if you could think a bit about crisis, in particular the climate and biodiversity crisis which is another thing that feels very much front and centre in our lives. Does that inform what you do/does it impact you or the way you think about your work?
I think about little else. I am in a state of constant fear that our species will destroy all this vibrant, fabulous life for our own comfort, convenience and profit.
Are there top priorities around the climate and environment you think everyone should be focusing on?
Food, energy, transport, human population, capitalism. Plastic straws (NOT!).
How do you feel about the future in the light of these crises? What about the past, how things have changed over time, does it inform what you do?
I feel desperate and in despair. All I can do is not drive, not fly, eat sustainably and keep reminding people about the climate and ecological emergency.
Who do you draw inspiration and guidance from? Are there people showing great leadership in your field?
The MAXwell Centre!
What does “community” mean for what you do?
It means our group of people pushing for the project to work. It means the local residents who will benefit from the eventual food growing area. I hope it will eventually mean the whole city wanting to grow local fruit and veg and turning Dundee from having some of the poorest health stats in the UK to the best.
Can you talk a little about the networks that you are part of that support you in what you do?
Council, NHS, community projects. It’s always a struggle tho…
How is what you do affected or informed by the current political system? Or local/national policies?
The Campy Growers project is only possible because of the local Food Growing Strategy, required by the Community Empowerment Act 2015.
Are there things you would develop or love to do if resources were unconstrained or managed differently?
The Vegbelt around every city. A radius of 10 km would easily produce all of the fresh veg needs for a city eating seasonally and sustainably. With short supply chains able to be covered by electric vehicles or cargo bikes. Get everyone eating fresh, local food.
In your journey to where you are now is there a particular moment or memory which really meant something to you, energised you, or sparked something that stays with you? This could be anything!
“Community Garden” is now a phrase that kids are familiar with in Lochee. They will go there, grow there and tell other people all about their veg.
You can find out more about the Campy Growers via this link here.