It’s that time of the year again! A time to withdraw, relax, rest, and take stock of the last 12 months. If we wanted to list all the things we’ve done, you’d be in for a really long read which you’re probably already too lazy for, so let’s just have a quick glance at the most interesting changes or events that happened in 2016.
- We planted apple saplings, sunflowers and holly bushes along the border fence (to complement the striking Jerusalem artichokes and an array of wild and garden flowers which were there already)
- We built a small pond to attract more aquatic wildlife – see how happy Judy looks posing in front of it!
- We constructed a large polytunnel which significantly increased the hothouse growing space (= more tomatoes, aubergines, cucumbers, melons, and the like)
- We dug up new beds: a lovely little children’d bed and quite a large patch for growing many different kinds of herbs
- We had really great social gatherings. Having kicked off with a sociable AGM on 13 March, we then celebrated the Spring Equinox (20 March), had a great turnout for the Harvest Festival (9 October), Pumpkin Day (6 November), Christmas Social (4 December). We had a couple of cosy get-togethers on Winter Wednesdays, a few impromptu meals, and several bonfires, some with hot chocolate and toasted marshmellows and some with a can of something refreshing and cold 🙂
- We did quite a lot of outreach/media work: in addition to this lovely article in the Oxford Times, we also attended meetings of the new Growing Collaborate group which brings together various green and growing spaces around the city; Penny and Marta were on the panel of Garden Experts as part of the CAG Skill Share; and OxGrow was represented at various student and city fairs around Oxford.
- We got new funding from the Midlands Cooperative which will keep us going for another year or maybe even two!
- In May, we hired a Garden Community Development Officer on a six-month contract. Jade helped us lots with reaching out to more people, including a leafleting campaign we launched jointly with the Hogacre Cafe, and attending numerous fairs and networking events, both in the city and at the universities. She played a major role in strengthening our structures and communications, from the new signage system to monthly organisational meetings, to drafting and improving various written documents. She was also instrumental in instigating our collaboration with Incredible Edible Oxford, which resulted in our launching a series of workshops around self-sufficiency skills. So a great success all around, and we feel we’ve become a stronger organisation as a result of her work – thanks Jade!
- We’ve had some good creative sessions as well: from our own Peter Naumann launching his new poetry book in the garden in June, to the very successful Arts in the Garden sessions in September, we celebrated the garden not just as a source of delicious food but also as a beautiful space which nourishes the body as well as the soul.
We created a new signage and garden record-keeping system. Each plot is numbered on a map, so they’re very easy to find. The whole space is divided into five sections, each of which has its own colour. We have notebooks which correspond to each of these colours, and after every session, we write down what we did so that it’s easier to keep track of what happened in each plot. It’s been working really well – it adds to the fun and makes communicating easier.
- Finally, over the last few weeks we’ve had really good garden planning sessions. From coming up with a list of things we’d like to grow, to choosing particular varieties and mapping out where they need to go, to writing down the order, it’s been great fun and quite a large group of people got involved. The whole process made it clear that OxGrow really is a community garden where a group of people, rather than one or two individuals, take responsibility for how it develops, so it’s been really wonderful to be part of that.
Phew! And that’s in addition to all the usual garden activities! Yes – lots and lots happened over the last 12 months. We really feel like the garden is going from strength to strength, both in terms of what grows there and in terms of the group of people involved in the running of it. So, we all look forward to 2017 when more of this good stuff is going to happen! As a sneak preview, here’s a few things to look forward to:
- getting new seeds in early February. Some of the less usual seeds for 2017 include cucamelons, okra, scorzonera, cardoons, mangel, and we’ll probably get another ‘lucky dip’ wacky selection of heritage plants from Garden Organic
- our Annual General Meeting in February or March (tbd)
- More ‘Art in the Garden‘ sessions and more festivities
- More courses, workshops, and skill-share sessions, from indoor mushroom growing to using herbs to cooking and preserving food
So book those Sundays in your 2017 diary now and make sure you come along! OxGrow Community Garden is a unique space and a unique community: a group of humans who do their best to look after a patch of land, nourishing and caring for it and getting some nourishment and caring for their bodies and souls in return. Being there every week in 2016 has given us a wonderful sense of purpose, stewardship and belonging, both in terms of the place and the community. We feel very lucky to have OxGrow in our lives and our one resolution for 2017 is that we will carry on loving it as much as we have in 2016.
Enjoy your winter breaks everyone and have a Happy New Year, and see you all in 2017!