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In January 2020, when I felt the warmth of the 100+ people gathered in St Augustine’s Hall for GPG’s “Penarth 2020” event, I couldn’t have predicted the scale and depth of my involvement. And from here, 3 years on, I’m delighted that I spoke up about an idea to form some sort of community growing project, and that some other folks were keen too. 

I’d been going to sessions at a community growing project in Cardiff, Global Gardens, for a while and was beginning to wonder why there weren’t any opportunities locally to get involved in community growing. At that time there just weren’t any projects, but slowly we have seen an unfurling of people gathering around public spaces to get growing.

It’s hard to believe what we have achieved in this relatively short time. And not just the number of events, made possible with support from The National Lottery Community Fund, but the ways in which our community relationships have deepened through the events and activities. We have opened up spaces for people to gather around the themes of local food, food growing and climate action. And I feel we have strengthened our community bonds. 

In our time of multiple converging crisis, it’s easy to lose hope. But right now I feel immense hope.

The collaborative efforts and support I have received from members of the GPG Committee, people who have stepped up to support Penarth Growing Community (many of whom I am now heartened to call friends), Friends of the Kymin and other local projects and local people, help me feel bolstered in my faith that we can look forward to a thriving future for our community. People here care.

Not to diminish the challenges ahead, and the resistance we face in our pursuit of change towards a more sustainable and regenerative future for our town. But I have an insight that our community bonds and cohesiveness give us the opportunity to move forward, together, one small step at a time. That’s how we keep hope alive.

It is also a time for us, all of us in our community, to take our responsibilities seriously. How we reach those who haven’t yet got involved, or who are pursuing other priorities, is the work that I feel lies ahead in the unfolding of the Penarth Growing Community project, and for GPG more widely, and in the work of other groups locally.

We are each responsible for taking the next step into a future where we do learn to tread more lightly on the Earth, where we do acknowledge and act on the fact that we are living outside of our planetary boundaries, and do what we can to rebalance, in our personal lives, homes, work contexts and through our participation in our thriving and abundant community projects.

For me, a focus on involving people in food growing is a good way in to the wider conversations that we need to have if we are to begin to address that which we so urgently must. My mindset is shifting from the notion of community growing, where the attention is on food growing and nature, to the locus of action being around growing community, and shifting our ways of thinking from sustainable, to regenerative. I intend to think and feel deeply into this in the months ahead, and I hope we can be together on that journey

As is our human way, let’s mark this moment of transition for us as a project with a celebration. You are invited to a ‘Celebration of Local Food, Food Growing and Climate Action’ on Saturday 25th February, 12-3pm in the Upper Hall of Trinity Methodist Church. Booking essential here. 

We will celebrate the successes and uncover the key learnings of the past year, hear from a range of people as we explore all things local food, growing and community, share food and identify our priorities now as we plot our pathway into our next phase.

To finish, I’ll just recall a moment from the Great Big Green Day event at The Kymin back in the autumn. It was a moment where what I experienced from this gathering of people, the challenges we had to overcome together to make the event happen and joy of being together, was nothing more, or less, than love.

Thanks to Sally Hughes, co-founder Penarth Growing Community, for this blog 💚

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