In Rochdale, staff at Petrus, a homelessness charity, saw the power of the Incredible Edible model as a way to connect with local communities, as well as provide meaningful and therapeutic activities for people who use its services.
Petrus Incredible Edible Rochdale started in 2013, which has now developed from cultivating hanging baskets (a great idea if you can’t access any land!) into an amazing community growing site which brings people together every week day to get involved in growing activities. In 2018, Petrus received funding which allowed the hosting of an Incredible Summer Solstice/end of Eid event on a Tuesday afternoon, which celebrated the range of food cultures and traditions of local communities. Rachael Bennion, Petrus Allotment Leader, wasn’t expecting the 200 people who came along to the event, although she certainly believed in the power of food to connect communities…
Rachael tells the story of how the group has reached out to local women who live across the road from the growing site but who were reluctant to come and get involved. Rachael knew the women, who are from South Asian backgrounds, cultivated and valued food and needed a way to use food to breakdown any perceived barriers to getting involved, such as language skills. Rachael organised a course on herbs for health, engaging a qualified herbalist to discuss traditional recipes from both the UK and South Asian countries, as well as discussing how the herbs could be cultivated at the growing site. Now the women tend their own raised beds at Petrus Incredible Edible Rochdale, often harvesting produce. The women take it home, and cook it, and bring it back to share with the other people tending plots on the site.
Rachael and the Petrus Incredible Edible Rochdale team run the site using that well-known Incredible phrase, ‘if you eat, you’re in’, by sharing traditions, techniques, food and learning to create a real community resource which welcomes anyone and everyone. Now around 30 different groups use the site for their activities, and they’ve got everything from a mud pie kitchen to a sculpture made out of rubbish.
This story has some great learning about how food can be that connector, you just need to work out how, and then get on with enjoying learning from each other and sharing the fruits of your labour. If you’re in the Rochdale area and would like to get involved, you can find out more about Petrus Incredible Edible Rochdale here. To find a group near you, search our map here. And if you’d like to start a group in your local neighbourhood, then sign up to the website to access our Getting going resources, or check out our 10 Steps to being Incredible guide.