Designing in the community

Summary of observations

  • the forest garden is situated in a community
  • creating a forest garden has the potential to be a great community building initiative
  • the forest garden will be a great asset to the community
  • the site of the forest garden was in the last few years grazed by sheep belonging to a community member who has several animals on community land as well as 15 acres currently used for hay making, but is unwilling to give up the land
  • the forest garden initiative is otherwise well-supported within the community, although there are concerns that existing land in the community is not taken care of, that we do not need exotic fruits and a lack of confidence in the group that they can pull it off
  • there are many community members with a lot of gardening and vegetable growing experience
  • many community members have been involved in artistic community events in the past
  • in the forest garden group, we are committed to working with the community

Summary of analysis

  • we can draw on the resources of the community and the forest garden group to create a great design as a community group process
  • providing regular opportunities for participating in the project is essential to encourage community support and ownership of the project as well as giving the community a feeling that this is an active initiative
  • there will be many probably strongly argued perspectives on the design and this must be well-managed

The design

  • the aim of the community design process is to provide opportunities for community members to take part in the design of the forest garden and encourage continued participation in the implementation of the design as well as enjoyment of the forest garden
  • we aim to to create opportunities for community members and the wider community to learn about forest gardens and permaculture
  • we give regular updates to Hoathly Hill Community through the community meeting and bulletin, and to the wider community through the Forest Row Forest Garden Group, West Hoathly Hub and nationally through the Permaculture Association and the Forest Garden Network run by the Agroforestry Research Trust
  • we will offer monthly sessions to provide many opportunities for participation
  • the sessions will be on the morning of our regular fundraising cafe to connect the two events
  • the sessions will be free of charge to enable participation and give something back to the community for their support at the fundraising cafes
  • an observation element will be a regular part of each session to gather observations from the community and to build up a picture of the land and encourage a connection with the land
  • we will go through a design process in the sessions, beginning with observation and visioning
  • the design will be based on the observations and visions of community members, but will be analysed and decided upon by the forest garden group
  • the sessions to be creative, facilitative and flexible depending on the participants’ needs and wishes
  • we will invite local people to the sessions, Hoathly Hill Hub, leaflets in Sharpthorne, Forest Row Forest Garden Group, Biodynamic College, Pericles
  • we will invite community members with expertise as well as external experts to support our design work
  • we invite widely to our work days, encouraging community members to participate in the creation of the forest garden as well as others wishing to join in
  • we have regular celebrations and festival activities in the Forest Garden