As we’ve covered in our blog on racial justice and orchards and in other blogs, one thing that’s really important to The Orchard Project is that our work is inclusive and better reflects the incredibly complex range of communities we serve. We don’t want to just be talking the talk, so we’ve been proactive at engaging meaningfully with black people and people of colour (BPOC) in our training.
Improving access to education
With support from the RHS Flourish Fund and the Finnis Scott Foundation, we’ve been able to offer free training to 14 black people and people of colour on our most recent two CICO courses (our Level 3 Certificate in Community Orcharding). We also tried to prioritise younger people and people who might find the course fees a bit too much.
One such student is currently trying to finish up her last pieces of homework, including an ambitious design. As the course draws to a close, she’s well placed to reflect on how it has gone.
“It’s been a good bunch of students from all walks of life. We got on well and have helped each other. It’s been great. It was interesting to see the engagement in the class, tutors and venues. They mirrored London and London is diverse. It was particularly encouraging to be able to learn at venues that are black led; it was an eye-opener.”
Working with more BPOC tutors
More BPOC tutors have been part of this training, including Than and Laura, who were attendees on previous courses.
“It has been wonderfully rewarding so far teaching on the CICO courses, particularly having been a student on the course myself some years back,” says Than. “The Orchard Project has been very supportive of me throughout. It has felt very authentic and aligned having now taught at various grassroots BPOC-led venues too.”
We love supporting talented students in their professional development if they want to move towards teaching, because it’s always rewarding to find people like Than and Laura who have that rare combination of knowledge and charisma.
“It felt inspiring to share my soil experience and what I do with my people,” says Sandra. “As melanin rich folks we have a cultural & spiritual connection with the land. Growing our food with love reflects this symbiotic relationship that we honour so dearly. Growing food is a blueprint of our indigenous homeland and our people.
“To me growing food takes me back to the days of big family gatherings, music, dancing and joy! It brings us back together in unity. Farmers are Future Doctors!”
Involving more BPOC venues
As well as finding diversity in the students and tutors, our mission has been to link up with as many BPOC-led project as possible. Among those we’ve had the pleasure of connecting with are Ras Prince’s site in Lewisham, Carole’s project in Southwark, May Project Garden in Merton, Black Rootz at Wolves Lane in Tottenham, Leyla’s Living Under One Sun (also Tottenham) and Sufra in Brent.
Rasheeqa Ahmad who runs the Community Apothecary in Waltham Forest says her project “welcomes our collaborative journey with The Orchard Project and their community orcharding training. We are developing our site in Chingford, north London as a medicinal forest garden and herb growing and production land in the collective care of our locality for our shared learning, well-being and remedies for healing. The work and practice of The Orchard Project aligns closely with our vision and aims of supporting and nourishing spaces of ecosystem healthcare and human and nature relationships for more flourishing cyclical systems.”
On the last day of CICO10, as well as learning about pruning and grafting, we had a little party at Carole Wright’s Southwark garden. Carole runs Blak Outside and is keen to base London’s first black orchardists’ resource at the sites she oversees – surely the time is ripe for this!
Both of these projects and all the others we’ve been lucky enough to link up with all have one thing in common: they are at the heart of their local communities. It’s been brilliant to feel connected to places and people that are at the cutting edge of cultural change and to feel the warmth of that beating heart.
In some small way, we hope that our training is helping bring more diversity into orchards and that we can deepen our connection to all the incredible participants, venues and tutors. We’d also like to build momentum into subsequent courses and focus on professional development for promising individuals. Our vision would be to diversify our organisation further and to try to find a way of multiplying our impact on inclusivity in orcharding.
This September we will be hoping to run a course in Brent. If you’re interested in being added to our mailing list for training please email email@example.com making sure to include your location.
by Jo Homan, Education, Skills and Training Manager