Plant/Seed Swap: Despite valiant attempts to plan and hold Covid Safe Plant/Seed and Produce Swap events where anyone can bring along something they have an excess of and take home something that they need or want, these just had to be abandoned as the seriousness of the pandemic became apparent. The same fate befell the annual Apple Pressing event in Hythe High Street where passers-by can watch the process, get involved and have the opportunity to taste actual fresh natural juice and, if they bring their own apples, to take away the juice generated. The equipment is available to anyone to borrow and was successfully loaned out to 3 different user groups.
Gleaning: Gleaning was an activity that we had intended to ramp up in 2020 with the creation of Hythe ECG Gleaning Hub. When the pandemic hit it became clear that this was something that we could and should continue with. With the elderly/vulnerable self-isolating, food poverty rising and those separated from their friends and family just needing a message saying ‘we are thinking about you’, the provision of fresh fruit and veg for those in need was becoming even more important. The Covid Hub at Age Concern was a great example of how to rapidly identify and reach out to those in need as was the reaction of other organisations such as commercial food kitchens who turned their resources to cooking for those in need, the charities supporting the homeless, refugees and also the schools who have been running foodbanks for the families of pupils who are going through a tough time. It has been fascinating linking up with all of these amazing initiatives over the last year and wherever possible, redirecting fruit and veg that would have gone to waste in the fields to hungry/grateful mouths.
Over 2020 we worked with farmers we already had a relationship with and ‘grew’ a few more. We gleaned cauliflowers, cabbage, broccoli, potatoes, squashes, cherries, plums, apples and pears with a grand total of 35 tonnes of produce gleaned. Where there was more than we needed locally, arrangements were made with the Felix Project who sent a van down and over the year took 7 tonnes back up to London Foodbanks. 3.5 tonnes also went over to Thanet.
It’s interesting to see life from the farmer’s perspective. They don’t like waste, but they have a fixed size workforce which they need to employ picking the most profitable crops and if that means leaving some in the fields to be plowed in then it is difficult to avoid, but an opportunity for us. The supermarkets force them to be very selective on quality and that again leads to wastage and the arid summer and very soggy autumn and winter have made accurate harvest planning impossible.
We work under the umbrella of a global organisation called ‘Feedback’ who provide some funding and a toolkit to get individual gleaning hubs up and running and are currently working with groups in Folkestone, Deal and Thanet to co-ordinate gleaning in South East Kent.
The gleaning opportunities take off usually in May/June through to November with the addition of spuds most of the year and green veg opportunities coming up at short notice at almost any time. So far in 2021, we have only had potatoes as the home demand for greens in the country has been high and the condition of the waterlogged fields has made yields low.
We currently have a large volunteer list of interested gleaners, but many have availability constraints that have stopped them from joining us in the fields. it is hard work, but is sociable (even at a distance) and gets you out of the house. With the Covid restrictions, we have had to tightly constrain numbers and plan safe control of the gleans. Unfortunately, it does mean that car sharing is not an option at this time. Looking forward we hope to go from strength to strength in 2021 and many thanks go to Councillors Doug Wade and John Wing who have made grants from their Ward Budgets for us to buy a car trailer to increase our cargo-carrying capacity. The trailer will join the apple pressing equipment as a shared community asset and, so will be available for use by any local non-profit organisation.
Hops: The other major success of the year, despite Covid, was Hythe Hops which completed its 2nd year with 117 members growing 194 hot plants in their gardens and allotments and harvesting a grand total of 71 kgs of hops (vs 32kgs last year). 1500L of Green Hop Beer was brewed by Hop Huzz (Hop Buzz Ale) and 5 different brews either have been or will be produced from our dried hops by Docker Brewery. Most of this will be canned and available for online purchase/delivery. A huge thank you to our brewers and also to Hukins who dried the hops for us, finding ways of working with us through the pandemic to make sure that every hop grown stood the best chance of making beer and being available for supping, If you haven’t tried them, then keep an eye on Dockers website. At the time of writing this article ‘Dark Matter Stout’ and ‘Hythe Pale Ale’ are available (and are delicious). Our Social secretary was busy arranging Zoom beer tasting meetings and quizzes which made a welcome (hilarious) break from lockdown.
If you are interested in growing some hops this year then drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to get more involved or receive further information, then drop us a line to email@example.com