The project has been developed in partnership by two Oldham based organisations; horticulture expert Northern Lily CIC, and Support and Action for Women Network – who specialise in promoting the welfare of black and African women across Greater Manchester.
They expressed interest in taking over the former Oldham Council-owned Grassroots site in Failsworth, after it became vacant when Miocare vacated in 2020 during the pandemic.
The site will be turned into a ‘haven’ for local residents who want to exercise their green thumbs.
Holding horticultural workshops, fruit and veg growing facilities, forest schools and areas to keep animals such as chickens, goats and bees the site will be an amazing asset to the local community.
Over summer groups from across Oldham visited and learned how to grow food and harvest fruit – giving them access to organic, locally grown produce at a time when household budgets are tight.
The project officially launched last month during the Great Big Green Week – a UK celebration of community action to tackle climate change and protect nature.
Rose Ssali, Chief Executive Officer of SAWN, said: “We are passionate about bringing people from all walks of life together in a positive way to boost their wellbeing in nature, learn how to grow food and live sustainably.”
Speaking to I Love MCR, Victoria Holden Director of Northern Lily said she was excited to see the project up and running.
“The site was formerly run by Oldham Council for adults with learning disabilities but it fell into a bit of disrepair during the pandemic.
“They have this amazing 166 fruit tree orchard but all the fruit was just lying their being wasted which was such a shame.
“We got the whole community in there during last summer to pick the fruit and make things like jam and apple pies, and we really all fell in love with the site.”
The site borders the Rochdale Canal, and there are plans to start up a canoeing and paddle boarding club as the group have received funding from the council.
Victoria continued: “We are so passionate about teaching people how to garden sustainably. This site is perfect to teach local people how to do just that.
“People don’t always realise that gardening is a 12 months a year job!
“We have to harvest the fruit, work over the Winter getting the site ready, the orchard pruned and mulched, there are lots of skills that people need to learn to do it successfully.
“Tackling climate change is high on our agenda, giving the community space and skills to grow food locally, whilst developing biodiversity on site helps towards this.”
The group are currently fundraising to get their 40ft poly tunnels heated so they can grow tropical fruits like yams, calalloo and chillis.
Victoria said that some of the skills they teach can help people as we enter a period of economic uncertainty with many people struggling to make ends meet as the cost of living crises worsens.
“People are struggling, and we can help economic migrants and asylum seekers who have an even worse starting point in the current crisis.
“We are trying to develop enterprises people can do themselves to help lift them out of poverty and allow them to support themselves.”
The groups are also hoping to open a cafe on site.