The Big Dig- Welcome Back


Bethnall Drive Allotments

The Big Dig, which encourages people to get involved in their local community food – growing  gardens, will take place after all this year, thanks to the efforts of local coordinators and additional funds  being made available to Sustain the event organisers.

Big Dig Day, which has at least 16 different  towns and cities already signed up,  will take place on 22nd March and will hopefully encourage people to volunteer in their local gardens on the day and carry on volunteering afterwards. Major towns and cities taking part include Belfast, Birmingham, Brighton, Cambridge, Cardiff, Durham, Liverpool, London, Newcastle, Nottingham and Swansea.

This is great news as preliminary research carried out by Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming, already shows the benefits that can come from such community gardening initiatives.

A high proportion of volunteers who took part in last year’s programme felt it had given them the opportunity to meet new people, had made them feel better in mind and body and had taught them about healthy eating and how to grow their own food.

Sustain’s survey also suggested benefits to the community at large with previously neglected sites which were attracting anti-social behaviour being reclaimed by local residents and the project attracting a wide range of people including those from disability groups, different ethnic backgrounds and different age groups. Over half of the gardens in the survey were in the poorest wards of their respective cities.

Given more funding there is much more the Big Dig project could achieve. Local coordinators are keen to link up with their counterparts across the country to share ideas and Sustain would also like to involve more venues across the country and to create a greater sense of community amongst the disparate gardening groups in each place. More research into the benefits of the project could also be undertaken.

The Big Dig which has, to date, recruited 7,500 new volunteers and created over 29,000 volunteering opportunities has been reprieved for this year and for 2015 as has the Edible Gardens Day in September, by funding from the Urban Food Routes project and the Big Lottery Fund’s Awards for All programme, but more support will be needed thereafter if this celebration of community growing and healthy eating is to continue.

Volunteers wanting to take part can visit the website

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