The Resilience Spotlight is an initiative of the Resilience Action Group (one of the Bristol Green Capital Partnership Action Groups). Every month in 2015, the group will invite nominations for someone in the city who demonstrates how we can work at a local level to develop Bristol’s capacity to respond to shocks and stresses.
This month’s theme was food and we were looking for someone who shows how you can boost local agriculture, improve access to healthy food, increase the diversity of supply and support local people to grow their own.
Within minutes of arriving, Roy is showing us plants and telling us about their different names across the world and their different uses – for tea, soothing stomach ache or reducing fever or just to spice up a stew!
Roy moved to Bristol in 1962 from Jamaica. He comes from a family of farmers and credits much of his knowledge to his grandfather. The first thing any aspiring grower should do, he says, is learn about the conditions of the soil in your growing space- “Just as you season your food, you should season and care for your soil.” He also lets us in on one of his growing must-haves – guinea pig manure!
He currently works as a caretaker for Bristol City Council in St Pauls and has been growing food in the front and back gardens at work for the last four or five years. Before that he had several allotments in Ashton Vale. While he can’t grow some of the food he was used to in Jamaica, he boasts an array of produce from potatoes, garlic and onions to runner beans, scallions, pumpkins and squashes.
The best things, he says, about growing your own is that you know what you are getting, it tastes great and it saves money, as prices at the supermarket keep creeping up. He says that more people having growing space would make Bristol a better place and that it is surprising what bits of land can be used.
Roy grows more than he can eat and gives away a lot to family, friends and co-workers. He has also taught his colleagues how to grow food. He places a lot of emphasis on the importance of teaching and learning: “Those who grow food should share their knowledge – and those who don’t should seek them out and listen!”
He also advocates the health and wellbeing benefits of growing your own; “It’s therapeutic – like medicine. If you are feeling upset, gardening can take it away.”
Kim Dowsett, Vice-Chair of the Resilience Action Group, says: “We were really excited to hear about what Roy is doing. His local food growing (in otherwise unused spaces) demonstrates how it is possible to be better protected from all sorts of shocks and stresses – local and global – that will affect our food supply. He also shows that you don’t need a huge allotment to get started!”