Review of 2016-17 at the community garden

Stromness Community Garden (SCIO) held a successful AGM this afternoon at the community centre. 13 people attended and a new board of trustees was elected for the coming year. AGM business was followed by a productive discussion about the proposed Land Fund Stage 1 application.

Chair Person’s Report:

It is easy to forget that last year was only the third full season on the site and the second season in the polytunnel. Stromness Community Garden has come such a long way in such a short time, supporting residents to grow food locally, enhance biodiversity, increase community run space and establish a new walking route. The last year (2016 – 2017) was productive again, and has ended with us considering the longer term future of the site. It has been a quieter year on site in terms of large scale projects, with members enjoying the polytunnel space and external plots which have been established over the last couple of years. There are currently 20 external plots and 10 polytunnel plots rented. The polytunnel is now nearly full, with only a single small plot un-let. Polytunnel growers have enjoyed a very successful first full season with early brassicas, rampant courgettes, beans, tomatoes and late salads. The tunnel has held up very well to severe weather and storms.

The paths, pond, willow shelter belt and car park area are bedding in well now, and the wild flowers continue to be a highlight in the summer months. The path from the Marwick Playing Fields continues to be used by local walkers and has been included in NHS low level health walks. In October, Grieveship Residents Association completed the restoration of the old waterlogged path from the playing field entrance to the hill land below Brinkie’s Brae. Combined, these paths are improving access and walking routes away from the road in the area. We look forward to working with Grieveship Residents to continue this trend.

New path to Brinkie's Brae from Grieveship

New path to Brinkie’s Brae from Grieveship

The main achievement this year has been fund raising. After several years on the waiting list we had a week in the Blue Door charity shop Kirkwall in May. The Blue Door allows local charities to help run the shop for a week, bring in lots of clothes and bruck, and keep the proceeds. Our week was a staggering success and we raised £3050 towards a sustainable water supply for the site. Many thanks to the Blue Door team, and all who helped in the shop and donated things.

Other fundraising events were held. This included tidying a garden in Birsay to help an elderly resident. A stall at Stromness Shopping Week was a great success raising over £50 and increasing the profile of the community garden in the community. The stall sold wide ranging produce from the polytunnel and books. A stall at the Town Hall Christmas sale in November raised £63. Two weeks later, a stall at the Stromness Primary School Christmas Fair raised a further £53. The guess the weight of the huge pumpkin (grown in the polytunnel by Kate Smith) proved a highlight (it was 10.7KG)! This money will be put towards the general running costs of the garden, such as equipment, timber, insurance, and accountant fees.

On site, the season was much more favourable than last year, with drier ground conditions and not too many gales. External plots continued to be developed. Workdays have slowed in frequency this year with the focus being general site maintenance such as tidying the shed, polytunnel and storage areas. The grass paths have been mown by members, especially Scott Sinclair who keeps the upper part of the site in order.

A sustainable water supply remains an important priority for the site. It was decided not to spend the money raised at the Blue Door charity shop on the water supply at present and increase the collection of rainwater on site. The sump excavated near the polytunnel has been fitted with a tank and hand pump. Additional tanks for the shed are planned.

Membership has remained stable this year, with some not renewing and others joining, and there are now 40 household members.

We remain financially sustainable, with a net surplus generated from membership and plot income. The annual report for the year 2015-16 was, including the verified accounts, accepted by OSCR the charity regulator.

The year has ended looking towards the long term future of the community garden. Orkney Housing Association, from whom we rent the site, have indicated that they might be in a position to sell us the land. As such, the board have been exploring the options to see if this is viable and something that we wish to pursue. Initial enquiries have been made to the Big Lottery Land Fund and we have been appointed an adviser. To date, the board have been consulting members and other local stakeholders to establish whether there is the support for an application to purchase the site and what our options are. This process is in the early stages and will be discussed after this AGM. We welcome everyone’s views in what could be a significant step for the community garden to secure its future.

Many thanks to our secretary Andrew Parkinson, treasurer Ian Garman, and membership secretary Kate Smith for all their hard work, and the other trustees for attending meetings and contributing to the running of the site. Thanks to members and other volunteers for their hard work on site. Thanks to Orkney Housing Association for their support and continued lease of the site.

Dan Lee (Chair)

26/02/17

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