AGM 2015 and Chair’s report

We had a good AGM last Sunday with 18 folk turning out at the Community Centre to hear an update on the site by Chair Dan Lee. The Board of Trustees was re-elected with three new volunteers (9 in total). We then had a great talk from Bob Nelson (the gardener formerly known as Birsay Tomatoes) who gave us some very useful tips on growing in polytunnels from his 30 years of experience in Orkney, including what to grow, pests and diseases. The main challenge for SCG is that our polytunnel will be communal. Bob certainly gave us all some great ideas for how to run this successfully. Many thanks Bob!

Many thanks to office bears Kate and Linda for all their hard work over the last year, and the other trustees for making the year such a success. Thanks to all our members, plot holders, supporters, donators and volunteers.

Dan Lee (Chair)

Northern Lights, Stromness Community Garden, Christmas Day 2014 (Photo: Ian Garman)

Chairs Report (Dan Lee) AGM 22/02/15:

This year has been another busy and productive year for Stromness Community Garden (SCIO). 2014-15 was our first whole year on-site and much progress was made. Following our successful grant award from the Big Lottery, the task was to spend the money and deliver the project ‘Access for Stromness Community Garden’ was one of the main priorities. This involved surfacing the car park area with recycled plastic ecopaving and covering this with stone chips and constructing the curvy path through the site. The aim is to provide easy foot and eventually wheelchair access into the hearth of the site. In total, over 50 tonnes of sand and stone chips was shovelled and barrowed by hand – a substantial contribution in-kind for the project if there ever was one! The lottery grant was completed and signed off successfully in Sept 2014.

Regular work days have been held roughly every 2 weeks throughout the year to continue to develop the site as a whole. This includes substantial shelter belt planting of native willow along all of the NW boundary and some of the SE. Drainage has also been an issue due to high levels of surface ground water in the lower part of the site. The initial drainage ditch was widened, a culvert below the path was installed and field drains were put below the path as well. These have done a good job alleviating the surface water and the ditch flows constantly during most of the year. More work needs to be done to help drain the polytunnel area, the Marwick Playing fields end of the path and in the area down from the shed. Observing the site over the course of a year has also allowed us to identified dense areas of wild flowers and develop a strategy for nurturing and enhancing the natural fauna at the site. We hope to undertake a biodiversity survey this coming year.

The polytunnel has been another major project for the year. The frame was completed before Christmas and the cover trenches were dug, however covering was delayed until this spring due to autumnal storms. Plots will become available when the cover is in place.

Membership was increased this year significantly and there are now 41 household members. The first plots yielded crops in the summer of 2014 and 14 have now been let. These vary in size from 5x5m to 10x15m. Plot 9 has been let to a disability group free of charge and plots 16 and 19 have been reserved for members requiring improved access. Timbers for a ramp have been purchased to create wheelchair access down from the northern corner of the carpark into this area. The main area of plots is relatively full and only 5 remain unlet. The first plots have been allocated in the top northern corner of the site. This area will be a priority for shelter belt planting in the spring.

At the beginning of the financial year we completed our first year of accounts as a SCIO and successfully reported them to OSCR. Financial sustainability has been a priority for this financial year, and this has now been achieved through increased membership fees and plot rental. Income will be further increased next year with polytunnel plot rental and additional membership. Additional funding was gained this year from the Cooperative Members Community Fund (£559) to pay for core costs (Public Liability Insurance & accountant fees).

The year ended with bulb planting in the Marwick Playing Fields and community garden in collaboration with Grieveship Residents Association. We have enjoyed making links with everyone and hope we can continue working together this coming year.

Many thanks to Kate Thompson (Secretary) and Linda Forbes (Treasurer) for all their hard work, and the other trustees for attending meetings. Thanks to members and other volunteers for their hard work on site. Also to people who have donated carpet, timber and willow. Thanks to Scottish Sea Farms for the large net and EMEC for delivery. Thanks to Grieveship Residents Association for the bulb planting, James Hutton Institute for analysing soil samples for free and our landlord OHAL.