The garden of a thousand hands….
I was so happy to have come across Skip Garden whilst in London. It’s just off York Way in Kings Cross, hiding amongst the industrial landscape. I was unaware of its existence prior to this trip, and ended up discovering it quite spontaneously.
Skip Garden is a community garden, kitchen, café, workshop space and urban oasis. All sorts of herbs, chillies, fruits and vegetables grow from skips – as well as from pots made of reclaimed, up-cycled materials. It places extended emphasis on the importance of learning together to understand ourselves and the world we are part of, running many workshops and retreats for young people. The garden provides an open invitation to anyone passing by, as well as venue-hire for different functions and events.
When you walk into the garden, it’s quite evident how contrasting the environment is to the cranes and office blocks that surround it. I really experienced such tranquillity, nourishment and connection by just entering the space from the pace and population of the roadside. There were friendly and informative people there to talk to if you had questions. Alternatively you could wander around alone and in silence.
I was very fortunate to encounter the kitchen space – seeing how things work from the inside. Skip Garden isn’t a food-waste initiative per-se, but they entirely work towards putting every harvested ingredient to use – therefore, reducing food waste in the first place! In the kitchen, a variety of seasonal dishes are cooked up and served, using all of the grown ingredients. The menu is created with the help of young people and volunteers, often including meals that focus of using vegetables in their wholeness. On Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, this menu is then served to the public through the cafe – not only giving guests a taste of what grows from the skips, but provoking thought around community, sustainability and land-use. To sit down and eat from a plate of fresh, organic produce – which is so local that it’s only travelled from a few feet away – generates mindfulness of where our food comes from and how it get’s from ‘farm to fork’.
I had some extremely valuable conversation with one of the cooks, learning different ways in which Skip Garden places importance on waste reduction. She told me about one particular workshop she’d led with some children, where they all decided and created a meal together. Then, with all of the leftover vegetable peel and trimmings, they prepared an additional veggie lasagne. She said that the kids comments were so encouraging. They were full of excitement and surprise about how they could make another whole meal out of what they thought they were putting in the bin. One child told her he needs to go home to tell his mum the good news!
Another part of Skip Garden’s manifesto is portability. It puts to purpose unused areas of Kings Cross development area – a total of 67 acres of construction site. This means the garden changes location as and when land is bought and sold. It was particularly inspiring to me, encouraging reflection on flexibility, compromise and place. These are all paramount in my thinking about a how best a food waste cafe can exist in Southampton. I mentioned that I’d like to re-visit them in the spring when more of the garden is in bloom, and was told that they may have moved the other side of the road by that time.
Despite not using surplus food, Skip Garden will be donating a recipe to the cookery book to highlight their workshop activity and the energy they put toward not generating food waste in the first place. Plus… they grow their food out of skips so that’s pretty cool! I’m really looking forward to receiving their recipes, and seeing the garden again soon.