Top Tips for Setting Up A Community Food Growing Project

By Mike Wohl, Let’s Go Let’s Grow  - Westminster, London

1. Find a patron: somebody with good local connections; who knows the movers and shakers; who is well liked; and has an interest in growing vegetables.

2. Create a portfolio and carry it with you at all times. Door knock people in immediate area. Our portfolio speaks for itself. You then don’t need to try and persuade someone – the pictures tell their own story. This is far more useful than leaflets, websites. At the start of Let’s Go, Let’s Grow, I just included images of similar projects – it let people know what could be achieved.

3. Sign up for Project Dirt. Don’t waste time building a website. Even if you have a techy person, it’s not really worth it – Project Dirt does most of things we need and it’s free. It also provides a ready made audience. If you really want your own website, you can but a URL and direct to the Project Dirt site.

4. Leaflets and posters are a waste of time.

5. Be realistic about the land owner. Get provisional consent from the landlord if possible, but be realistic about your chances of getting a formal agreement - the landlord is often busy and your project will be low priority. Ask them how they would feel in principal about a local food growing group. And remember – they will pay more attention if you already have money / grant.

6. Get an expect on funding applications to read your drafts - in community matters, it’s not what you say but how you say it. The exact same set proposals said one way will get money, said another way will get nothing.

7. Start husbanding the surrounding area. Get a high visibility jacket, maybe with your logo on it. Start to look and care for the area surrounding the place you’re interested in. No one will challenge you if you pick up some empty pizza cartons or beer cans – but everyone will notice and subconsciously assume that you have got consent already.

8. Having a brand is critical. Let’s Go, Let’s Grow has a motivational component and a hook like a pop song. It was never punted as saving the planet or about food miles – it was have fun, be healthy and save money.

9. Don’t bother with steering groups or a management committee. Try to find one person who has the growing bug.

10. Expect negativism, ridicule and continuous blocks and setbacks. The secret of success is the ability to confront repeated failures and disappointments with ever increasing optimism and persist persist persist.