25 July 2017
We're putting part of our social enterprise in a box - well a shipping container to be precise, to provide work and social re-integration opportunities for people coping with mental health problems.We're Growing Better and we support and advocate for people facing mental health challenges by providing therapeutic, social and work opportunities in an urban farming social enterprise. We're also determined to show that mental health isn't a barrier to business success and so our organisation is a sustainable trading enterprise rather than grant-funded.
We've now launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise £20,000 to build a hydroponic vertical farm in a shipping container in Kirkstall, Leeds to grow micro greens which we will sell to local chefs, specialist wholesalers and retailers, and direct to the public at farmers markets and online.
In 2016 we had a successful summer growing and selling baby leaf salad and herbs. We provided paid and volunteer work for 8 people, almost all self-identifying as having mental health issues. However, people need support throughout the year not just in the outdoor growing season - and that's the main driver behind our project - to create an urban farm that produces food, employment and better mental health all year round.
Our plan is to grow in an insulated shipping container – and this is what our project will specifically fund. It will enable us to employ the equivalent of 3 full time people (more likely 5-6 part-time given our focus on recruiting people with mental health problems), and run 6-12 week work and social integration programmes for many more.
All the money we raise will go towards buying the shipping container, racks, trays, and irrigation and lighting systems we need to operate our farm on a commercial basis. It doesn't come cheap - professional horticultural lighting costs around £200 per square metre of growing space and our container will have 30 square metres of growing space!
We've been in trials for the past 3 months, working out what grows best under what conditions and how to manage food safety. We've had our produce trialling in a couple of local grocers, samples to and commitment from some of the top restaurants in Leeds, and four regional wholesalers interested in buying from us - so we're confident this can be sustainable.
if you'd like to find out more please visit our campaign site at https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/growingbetter/
There's plenty of ways you can support our campaign. We've got people running and baking cakes (not at the same time) to fund a pledge - and helping publicise it by sharing our campaign across their social and professional networks.
I'm very happy to discuss any aspect of our campaign and our venture - please feel free to contact me, Rob, at email@example.com