In 2013, Penderry-based organisations were the most successful applicants, attracting the largest share of the Council's then recently launched Grow Local Fund. Despite their proximity, these organisations were often unaware of each others' intentions to start food growing. Cynefin developed this awareness during discussions held to set up the Penderry Providers' Planning Forum. It then started to consider how it could assist food growers to share skills, knowledge and resources. Working in conjunction with the Council's Community Food and Growing Team, Cynefin organised a meeting to unite these groups and include other already established food growing enthusiasts.
A meeting was arranged in early November 2013 with an invitation sent to all potential food growers in the area. Participants met at Swansea's Civic Centre and visited the Vetch Community Garden. Generously hosted by Dawn and Pam, two of its committee members, participants were given a tour of the garden, the history and development of the project, practical ideas and a long list of the greater benefits of a community garden beyond food production itself! All this as well as being spoiled with tea and homemade cakes!
Returning to the Civic Centre, participants then got to learn of Swansea's newly formed Community Food and Growing Team, the work it was engaged in and its future plans. A discussion took place about the value in forming a local network for food growers in Penderry and it was agreed to meet again in January 2015 to start sharing information about each others' projects.
Meetings continued into the early part of the 2014 growing season, sharing practical advice and problem solving among members. Communities First sponsored training and consultation, delivered by the Federation of Community Farms and Gardens which drew out local people's knowledge and increased their confidence. Once the growing season was underway however attendances at meetings dwindled and meeting are no longer organised. A number of reasons contributed to this; the growing season itself added extra work and demands on people's time so little was left for meetings. Also, most of the organisations in the network cared for children (primary schools, flying start and family projects). This meant that releasing staff was often difficult, particularly whet her were shortages and last minute incidents took priority.
Forming the network provided interesting feedback for the Council: Its Grow Local Fund was developed to help get groups of enthusiastic volunteer gardeners started. In Penderry it was clear that local, staffed organisations, with the capacity to write applications had been successful and while these projects were designed to incorporate volunteer action, were not necessarily driven by them. This helped in assessing whether the fund was achieving its original aim and allowed for changes in criteria towards that for future years.
As attendance at meetings dwindled, Cynefin and the Community Food and Growing Team took the bold step to stop trying to organise meetings. Support was not abandoned however:
All network members are now invited to Penderry Provider's Planning Forum where they can meet and exchange information.
The email network is regularly used to circulate useful information to food growers on events, courses, local trainers etc.