Project turns underused land into productive food growing sites, with residents’ help

Written for Hull Food Partnership, 3/12/2020

John Pickles is the Community Growing Co-ordinator at Environmental Management Solutions (EMS) Ltd, a charity founded in 2009. EMS has offices in the east of the city, but works actively on both sides of the river. The charity’s mission is to work with residents and community groups ‘to alleviate food and fuel poverty’.

John explained: “Most of our work is related to food and redistributing food. We pick up a lot of short-dated supermarket food, which we then redistribute from our shop office which we have at the Preston Road Village Centre. The public can come in, Monday to Friday between 10am and 3pm, and they can take items from the shop. We’ve got all the basics, and they can put a donation in the basket, it’s very affordable.”

John’s role at EMS is to engage residents and community groups in growing their own food. The project now has several growing sites around the city, often on council-owned land that is being underused. Hull City Council are supportive of these ‘grow your own’ initiatives, helping tenants and groups to access John’s skills and EMS’ resources.

“We’ve got several sites around Hull. Usually it is Council land, where we’ve liaised with tenants and residents’ association groups. And we’ve spoken to locals who were interested in growing their own food, fruit, vegetables, and herbs. And we’ve identified a piece of vacant or underused land near where they live, and we’ve put in some infrastructure to give them most of what they need to grow their own fruit and vegetables,” said John.

I visited John at a site just off Wincolmlee, close to the city centre.

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