Hayfield Garden is a half-acre community garden on the edge of Hay On Wye. It was established in 2010 by a group of local people as a way to grow food and have a beautiful space to enjoy.
How it started
A number of factors led to the creation of the garden; the town’s allotments were over subscribed with a waiting list of interested plot holders; the Transition Town group were discussing ways to make the town more sustainable, including how to access local food and a group of friends were inspired to start a garden. They approached a local farm asking to rent a piece of land for community growing and took on a lease initially for one year. A combination of volunteer labour, and help from the land owners meant that within a few months the first crops were in cultivation. Initially the group had no constitution and costs were covered by donations from the founders. The garden later became members of the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens who advised on the process of registering as a Community Interest Company. This is managed by voluntary trustees who are able to apply for funding to develop the project.
The garden operates on organic principles as it was included in the farm’s existing Soil Association accreditation. It grows a mix of fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers which are sold on site and through a local greengrocer, or taken home by those who contribute their time as volunteers. Income from sales is invested back in the garden and paying back the initial investment. The site includes a polydome which was constructed and donated by the landlords who also run a Geodome business. This allows a wider range of crops to be grown and extends the growing season, whilst also acting as a gathering space on rainy days. The site also has a caravan and shed which provide storage, compost toilets and basic kitchen facilities.
The gardening is coordinated by Phoebe Boulanger, one of the founders, with help from a number of regular volunteers including two placed through Powys Sense. There are occasional work days to complete special tasks such as potato harvesting or hedge planting. A small area has been set aside for children to garden. Phoebe says “We are very lucky to have a fantastic growing site with lovely fertile ground and a south facing aspect which means that the crops just want to grow!”
Ros and Geoff Garrett are husband and wife farm partnership who own the land on which Hayfield Garden sits. They run 26 hectare organic farm including grazing and horticulture, as well as a bed and breakfast, and festival campsite. They were happy to offer space for the garden because such initiatives are close to their own ideals and they support the intention to produce good food whilst enjoying spending time working in the outdoors. Their land also offered an ideal location being within walking distance for local residents, and fertile southerly facing horticultural land which had been managed organically for a number of years.
Ros and Geoff are in regular contact with Phoebe to discuss plans and provide advice as necessary. They enjoy learning from the garden and some of the permaculture principles it is trying, and as a result, have tried new things in their own business. They also enjoy the social dimension it brings to their land, especially as farming can be quite a solitary experience.
Ros says of their involvement: “ Unlike the archetypal image of the farmer who stands scowling at those on the other side of the fence whilst shouting “get off my land” we have found it refreshing and heartening to see all sorts of different people from a diversity of backgrounds and life experience as well as age groups participating in the project. If you trust them people do not take liberties, instead they take responsibility”. Phoebe agrees that it has been a good working relationship: “Ros and Geoff have been wonderfully supportive in lots of ways. I hope that other community groups will be able to set up similar projects if more land owners come forward to support this sort of venture.”
Ros and Geoff would recommend other land owners consider entering this type of arrangement, providing a similar group of enthusiastic, committed people come forward. They say it would have to be response to a local need as was the case in this instance. Such partnerships are also a way for farms to diversify their business and provides a further point of interest for visitors, complementing other farm diversification activities such as bed and breakfast or camping. They see Hayfield Garden as a voluntary organisation that is developing all the time, establishing good working practises that respond to needs and remain flexible enough to allowing new ideas to develop.