Kent Community Award 2022 Winner: Communigrow
"We promote well-being, community cohesion and ways how communities can reduce the impact we have on the planet."
Based in East Malling/Ditton, Communigrow is an educational and horticultural charity reconnecting people with growing food and nature while supporting well-being and promoting the benefits of sustainable food production. We provide opportunities to learn skills and meet others in a unique and welcoming environment. We grow a wide range of crops, all grown with support from our dedicated group of volunteers. Our veg is purely seasonal, grown using natural methods and techniques that support local habitats and wildlife.
We promote well-being, community cohesion and ways how communities can reduce the impact we have on the planet. We believe that growing locally, sharing skills and promoting healthy diets and active lifestyle are important to the future of communities. Everyone is welcome to join us. We work with individuals who want to volunteer, families, young people, elderly and adults including people with learning needs.
At Communigrow, we follow and promote environmental sustainability. Some of our sustainable practices
Promoting 'grow your own', local, seasonal and sustainable food - We encourage communities to learn to grow their own food and pass that knowledge on to their families and friends. We have increased access to local, chemical-free and affordable produce for communities who live near East Malling. In 2021, local families bought more than 320 veg boxes and 470 portions of veg. These families have started to learn to eat with the seasons and reduce their carbon footprint and food miles.
Creating habitats for wildlife - An important part of our work is to transfer understanding of wildlife and its role in supporting sustainable food production practices. Participants of our sessions learn the importance of
birds and insects to grow vegetables (eg pollination and companion planting). Participants also learn to
make bird boxes, bat boxes, bug hotels and hedgehog boxes that support small mammals, birds and insects.
Upcycling/recycling/repurposing - Several structures are made from donated and recycled materials. For instance, NIAB EMR donated old apple boxes, pallets and other second-hand items that have been
transformed into raised beds to grow vegetables, a bird hide and an outdoor kitchen. Warren Pestell of Malling
Gardens & Trees and Day Tree Fellers donated bark and wood chippings that were used to make paths, which
are a natural way to keep weeds under control and prevent the ground from becoming too muddy when it rains.
Composting - At Communigrow there is a dedicated composting area where weeds, grass cuttings and old
cardboard turn over time into rich compost used to feed the soil. We run composting and soil lessons where participants learn how to improve soil quality and the benefits of composting.
Reducing use of plastic - As an educational charity we recognise our role in changing behaviour among
communities that in the long term can produce positive outcomes to support conservation and protection
of the environment. To actively reduce the use of plastic we only use paper bags and repurposed wooden
boxes for our veg boxes. We do not purchase new plastic pot plants. Instead, every year we use and clean plastic pots that have been donated.