The first Bath & Bristol Organic Growers Group meeting of 2020 saw 10 of us hardy souls brave the sleety weather and visit the inspirational Root Connections in Stratton on the Fosse, warmly hosted by manager Sue.
After introductions in the welcoming farmhouse kitchen, Sue gave us an overview of the project set-up: a joint venture by farm tenants Addicott Partners, Mendip District Council and Elim Connect Centre (a street-level access programme acting as the primary referral point for rough sleeping in Mendip). The project is in its second year and now includes over an acre of hand-worked market garden crops, a polytunnel with propagating space plus two more small frames currently under construction for this growing season, an established orchard planted by the current tenant’s father and the fruit of which is available for the project to sell, and outbuildings to pack veg boxes and woodworking space.
The project employs a full-time gardener and part-time manager, but the purpose of it is to complement the Dairy House hostel on site, offering space and therapeutic work to residents. The project also has a range of volunteers throughout the year, from 6 to 26 depending on the season and jobs, who work alongside the residents and both groups get a lot from the companionship and camaraderie.
Root Connections sells around 70 vegboxes per week to a range out pick-up points, with some plans to do direct deliveries; holds several market stalls and sells via other outlets. As well as the veg and cut flowers, they also make value-added products from the orchard or gluts from the garden.
They are currently a Community Interest Company (CIC), and we all had an interesting dicussion over the best structure for such a project when it comes to finding funding. The project itself will surely continue to grow over the coming years, and continue to help many vulnerable people, as well as producing good local food for the whole community.