A keen gardener is teaching council tenants how to grow vegetables to help improve the health of people living in her local town.
Julie-Ann Henderson launched the Room to Grow project to encourage residents to make the most of their outdoor space.
Council tenants were chosen because of the size of their large gardens.
“They were built at a time when people had allotments in their gardens but a lot of people don’t know how to grow vegetables now,” she said.
The award-winning landscape gardener has had several tenants sign up to the scheme since it launched in Huntly, in Aberdeenshire, a few months ago.
And now, after a summer of glorious sunshine, they are enjoying the first of their crops with a wide range of vegetables still growing in the ground.
The project helps one tenant who lost her job keep costs down
Mum-of-three Emma Wood was the first council tenant to sign up to Room to Grow.
“I think it is a brilliant idea,” She said. “I’ve got peas growing and salad leaves which I pop out and help myself to. There’s also carrots, Brussel sprouts, broccoli and onions.
“There’s a good range of vegetables growing there.”
The former bar worker says the scheme will also benefit children, teaching them new skills and to be less fussy with eating healthy food.
Joining the project was also a good way for Emma to keep costs down over the past year.
She lost her bar job during lockdown and plans to study a university degree in tourism in September.
‘We’re all guilty of eating processed foods’
The 44-year-old said: “I lost my job last year because of Covid; money-wise it’s been quite a tight year.
“So anything that can save a bit of money is great and getting outside to do a bit of gardening is good for your mental wellbeing.
“We’re all guilty of eating processed foods, but there’s nothing better than tasting your own fresh produce.”
Julie-Ann, who owns local business Garden Rejuvenation, has also taken on a plot of land at Huntly railway station to grow food.
I want to empower people so they don’t have to rely on food banks
Vegetables will be given to the local community along with surplus produce from the tenant’s gardens.
The mum-of-three has also taken on another community project refurbishing the overgrown Huntly Community Orchard on Riverside Drive with the help of some other volunteers.
The gardener is considering starting up a monthly club on the site to cook healthy fresh food for families in need of assistance.
Julie-Ann recently held an open day in Emma’s garden to show other residents from the town how they could also get involved.
“I just want to empower people so they don’t have to be relying on food banks. I know from personal experience, I really struggled,” she said.
The mum-of-three is keen to show how growing and cooking fresh food from the garden can improve health and wellbeing, but also to help people who may feel lonely.
And she hopes other local communities across Scotland will start similar projects.
The project will help with those suffering from social isolation
“One of the aims is to reduce social isolation,” she said. “There’s a lot of older people living in council housing who would have at one time taken care of their gardens themselves who can’t get out and about.
“I’m hoping that they’ll come out and sit outside while we’re doing their garden and it will be something for them to look forward to when we come every week.
“I love helping people to enjoy what I love.
“I could save the NHS a fortune if I could just get everyone growing their own food! We would all be so much healthier.”
The council is pleased with this ‘rewarding’ outdoor project
An Aberdeenshire Council spokesman said: “Room to Grow is a project that aims to bring people together and encourage the production and distribution of healthy produce, ultimately making a real difference to people’s wellbeing, and the housing service is very pleased to be working with Julie-Ann on this project.
“It’s a fun and satisfying way to make use of outdoor space to grow that benefits not only the tenants that are taking part, but also the wider community through sharing part of the harvest.
“We’ve been happy to share information with tenants and encourage them to take part in this healthy and rewarding outdoor project.”
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