The changing face of social enterprise — Summerfield Community Gardening Project

Summerfield Community Gardening Project is a a local project based at City Hospital greenhouses. It aims to promote well-being by connecting people and plants through gardening.

Summerfield Community Gardening Project volunteers at City Hospital (photo: SCGP)

The work the group is doing at the City Hospital Greenhouses is part of Summerfield Residents Association’s overall aim to create community involvement and a sense of pride in our area.

The project took over the City Hospital greenhouses at the hospital’s invitation  just under two years ago. Now, in addition to growing plants and vegetables — including flowers for hanging baskets and floral home-made troughs to enhance the neighbouring streets — the group has set-up a unit for creating compost from the Eye Hospital’s food waste and organic waste from local businesses.

It is also in process of establishing a vermaculture where earthworm castings can be harvested and recycled in the form of a powerful fertiliser and soil preservative.

It also plans to utilise more of the heat generated from the composting process, along with solar-powered lighting, to warm the soil and make it possible to employ one of the greenhouses throughout the winter.

The project aims to be self-sustaining within twelve months through plant, compost and fertiliser sales and possible tie-ins with local restaurants around fresh, specialised vegetables.

Other avenues the project plans to explore include connecting to the local health economy, offering a satisfying pastime to people who need to occupy themselves productively or engaging with local schools and colleges for their students to gain experience either in plant lore or in commerce and marketing.

The project will seek funding to bridge the gap between now and self-sustainability and will shortly be making applications to a number of trusts and funders.

Over thirty people attended one of its recent ‘worm workshops’ and the project has a steady stream of visitors and volunteers throughout the year. The project got top marks from judges in last year’s RHS It’s Your Neighbourhood In Bloom Competition and a special mention at the awards.

Produce at the SCGP

Now, I’m not a gardener but as someone who has unhappy memories of City Hospital (through no fault of the hospital, I hasten to add), I find this really heart-warming. It seems such a terrific opportunity and it’s great to see social entrepreneurs stepping up to take on this challenge. So come on, you keen gardeners, horticulturalists, foodies and fresh air fiends! Surely, there’s something you too can do to help this emerging social enterprise on its way?

The Summerfield Community Gardening Project opens on Mon, Wed, Fri & Sunday mornings 10 till 12 and is marked on Google maps.

You can find out more about what the project is doing on its Facebook page and you can send mail to Christopher Vaughan, the project co-ordinator.

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Birmingham UK. Freelance research, evaluation and policy consultant specialising in social enterprise and the third sector. I maintain the BSSEC blog and website

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