A blissful ignorance can pervade between city dwellers and their seemingly remote countryside counterparts, a scenario that can breed misunderstanding and a detachment from how food is produced.
So what better way to address that knowledge gap by literally taking a farm into the city? That is a vision that the Rooted project is attempting to realise by taking its interestingly novel concept of a ‘farm in a box’ to the urban centre of Hull.
The aim is simple: to support and make improvements in people’s physical and mental health, through knowledge and experience of food; particularly for those affected by poverty.
In Hull’s UK City of Culture year, the micro-agriculture enterprise is being established on derelict land on St Peter Street near to the site of the demolished Rank Hovis Mill building.
In a first milestone for the project, a first container has been installed on the site to act as a meeting room and office space. A second container will house a kitchen and cafe, and it is due to be fitted in spring, but that is just the start. Additional containers are set to be added as the project gathers pace in order to incorporate what project leaders described as “modern and innovative growing and food processing facilities”.
A host of local businesses, plus students from Hull College have been involved in the project to date, and Rooted’s co-director, Adrian Fisher, said: “This first container is a milestone for Rooted as it is the first example of our partners working together to provide a community space that can be enjoyed by people in our region.
“It is great to see private sector companies in Hull working in unison with Hull College Group and Emmaus Hull to collaborate on a project that will have a positive impact on the city.”
Mr Fisher spent decades in farming before he switched to working in community organisations which promote food in Hull.
“We want to connect people back to food and show how simple it can be and that it doesn’t have to be expensive,” he said.
“Certainly here in Hull there is no formal education around horticulture now and agriculture doesn’t come into it, yet as a society we need young people who can come into these sectors with new ideas.”
The project has the added benefits of offering work experience to students. Young people studying construction at Hull College are helping to give the first two containers a more appealing makeover and they have been busy panelling them with wood, installing electrics and painting and decorating the interiors and exteriors; input which has also had the benefit of giving young people useful work experience.
The students have also been involved in the development of mobile raised beds to create multiple agricultural structures.
Graham Towse, the college’s principal, said: “Projects like these really help to instil a sense of pride in our students and they can all be immensely proud of their contribution to the community, and their help in raising aspirations and building communities.”
Work on the site started last year and the first container was installed on Monday.
Hull-based construction firm Hobson & Porter has helped Rooted establish contacts for the project and it has partnered with national building supplier Jewson to provide materials for the site’s building structures.
Jewson has donated materials for the construction of the containers and is among a number of businesses to support the project, others include: Bonus Electrical, Boston Renewables, VIP Communications and Hudgell Solicitors.
Mr Fisher is keen to link up with a farm in the region to introduce a live link that will allow footage from a working farm to be shown on television screens at Rooted.
Anyone interested in discussing the idea further can contact Mr Fisher via the Rooted website, www.rootedinhull.org.uk