Opportunities for community growing spaces and setting up a local food-growing enterprise on Alston Moor are to be explored early in the new year.
Cumbria Action for Sustainability (CAfS) is to oversee a comprehensive feasibility study, as part of the Alston Moor Greenprint project funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.
“The appetite for community food growing and the potential to develop a local growing enterprise came out of extensive consultation carried out across Alston Moor,” said Roe Baker from CAfS, who manages the Greenprint.
“This was through the Community Plan, led by the Alston Moor Partnership, and from the thoughts and ideas gathered at the successful Greenprint Convergence event we held in September, where participants were asked to envisage a carbon-free future for Alston Moor and how this could be achieved.”
Roe added: “It feeds directly into the overall aim of the Community Plan and Greenprint, to make Alston Moor sustainable and resilient.”
The area’s altitude and climate means it has a challengingly short growing season, and the feasibility study will look into innovative ways to grow food successfully despite that.
“We’d like to build in options for heated growing spaces using renewable energy sources and explore cyclical systems like micro anaerobic digesters to use bi-products or waste,” Roe said.
“Despite being such a rural area, there are residents who don’t have gardens or land suitable for food growing and others who have never grown food before. Having a community growing space would make it possible to share skills and rebuild knowledge about food growing that’s been lost over time. Ideally produce could also be shared with a community kitchen or café.”
Roe also hopes the study will plot the way for training, apprenticeships and jobs.
“We want to be innovative in our approach and identify ways that food growing could lead to successful enterprises, and part of that will be investigating niche foods that could be grown commercially on Alston Moor, which, given time, the area could become renowned for,” Roe said.
CAfS is currently looking for a consultant with the specialist skills to carry out the study.
“We’re hoping to find someone who has experience in both developing community food-growing spaces and local food-growing enterprise, and who ideally has specialist knowledge of growing at high altitude and using renewable energy to heat covered growing spaces,” Roe said.
The study is expected to start in January and be completed in April.
“That would then put us in a position by next spring to get the ball rolling on some food-growing projects on Alston Moor, armed with the findings from the study,” Roe said.
The tender information can be found at cafs.org.uk and the deadline for submissions is 11 December 2018.