Climate Awareness: West Highland Free Press articles

2021: The year for growing your own

7th January 2021

The new year has arrived and with it the promise of fresh starts. For many, New Year’s Resolutions will be in full swing, some may have slipped already and others may still be rooting around for ideas. People will be aiming to eat a healthier diet, do more exercise or lead a more sustainable lifestyle, but sometimes it can be hard to stay motivated. So have you thought about starting something where you can see and reap the rewards year round? Something that combines all three of these goals? Something like growing your own fruit and vegetables?

Alongside hosting the Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Glasgow (COP26), United Nations have declared 2021 the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables: the year to give growing your own a try. Whether you have a few pots on your doorstep or a polytunnel and a couple of raised beds, the benefits of growing your own are numerous: increased exercise, fresh air and a supply of fresh produce right on your doorstep. But there is more.

Growing your own produce and buying less from the supermarket is one of the ways we can help create a sustainable planet. Our apples come in plastic bags, our raspberries in plastic boxes and our broccoli comes wrapped in clingfilm. What happens to all this single-use plastic once we get home and empty the contents into our fridges and fruit bowls? If we’re not careful it ends up on landfills. Then you’ve got to add in the carbon emissions from 6800 miles of transportation needed to get our green beans from where they are grown in Kenya to our dinner plate. By growing our own we skip out the transportation and the plastic packaging; our green beans go from garden to plate in minutes.

Growing your own is not as difficult as you might think. Susan Robertson, who has been growing vegetables on the family croft in Elgol for five years, says: “It is quite surprising actually what you can grow. We have leeks, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, celeriac. Oh cucumber! And we have courgettes coming out our ears. Pack choy you can grow – I haven’t grown them from seed but I bought wee plants and they are in the polytunnel just now. It is nice just to go out and get a few bits of lettuce, tomatoes and your peas and cucumber and that makes a really nice salad.”

The GrowSkye project on Skye Climate Action’s website has a wealth of information on how to grow your own – you don’t even need to have a garden. You can easily start with a basil plant or a tomato vine growing on your windowsill, or you can join in with a community growing project.

polytunnels at Broadford Growers' Hub

Polytunnels for growing vegetables. Image courtesy of Broadford Growers’ Hub

In 2014, with funding from the Climate Challenge Fund, the Broadford community company turned an area of disused felled forestry into a flourishing Growers Hub. They have eight polytunnels and outside raised beds with a variety of plot sizes available.Coordinator Nicholas Kelly says: “We have 22 different families growing their own at the moment. If something comes available I just advertise on social media and boom – it is gone within 20 mins. I have never had one last over an hour.”

All the water for the allotments comes from a burn and they have their own composting hot bins. Nicholas said: “Our next big project is to get the Growers Hub off grid. Get solar panels on the roofs and some wind turbines so we can say that we are self-sufficient and hopefully make a wee bit of money selling it to the grid.”

The Growers Hub also has a Men’s shed, a horticultural therapy group “Flourish”, and Broadford Primary school use a polytunnel to grow vegetables for their school kitchen. Nicholas says: “The primary guys definitely get to see what it is all about because their veg is right in front of them, rather than the packaged, pre-cut stuff.”

A community growing project also started up last spring in Camastianavaig, Braes. Around 10 households got together growing tatties on a piece of disused croft land. Shirley, who helped initiate the project alongside the crofter, said: “We got a good yield. From our row we got 50 kilos. All of us who had surplus gave bags to our neighbours and shared it out. That was part of the plan all along, to include everybody in the village.”

The grey skies of January may not be tempting you out into your garden to dig potatoes, but Spring will come around before you know it. So why don’t you give it a try and make 2021 your year of growing fruits and vegetables? After that first bite of home grown tomato you will never buy the supermarket ones again.