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THANK YOU!

A huge thank you to everyone who bought BUF Boxes this week. This is just some of the produce we have donated to Manna‘s initiative which delivers fresh, healthy meals to vulnerable people in isolation during the Covid-19 crisis…

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BUF Boxes are back!

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We have been planning to relaunch Bentley Urban Farm BUF Boxes for a while. The situation with Covid 19 has convinced us that this is the time to do so, especially for our elderly customers who are self-isolating.

For the duration of the Covid crisis we will also be donating produce to a great initiative from Manna, who are planning to provide hearty meals to isolated vulnerable people.

BUF itself has been struggling for some time, so we will also be launching a SAVE BENTLEY URBAN FARM crowdfunding campaign on the Spacehive platform in the near future. But buying our BUF Boxes is still the best (and healthiest!) way to support our award winning project 🙂

We’ll be posting more details soon, but in the meantime you can call Warren on 07846 439 982 for further details.

Has another break-in finally broken us? :-(

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Once again Bentley Urban Farm has been targeted by thieves. They have taken essential tools for the daily running of the site. As a volunteer-led, upcycled, community project we have been struggling for a while, but this is a major set back.

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Without sufficient tools we are unable to work at full capacity, so for the foreseeable future we will only be open to the public from 10am to 2pm on Fridays. We have a handful of tools left, but it you want to volunteer and are able to bring your own then please do so.

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We are sorry for any inconvenience, but rest assured that we will find a way to rebuild this important project. In light of the Climate and Ecological Emergency the work we do around permaculture-based, vegan, organic local food production is more vital than ever. As are our strategies to fight food deserts and food poverty. We will not be beaten by the selfish and greedy actions of people who would rob a community project.

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Especially as we’ve been so busy lately getting the site ready for the new season.

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We have built Bentley Urban Farm against all the odds. We are impoverished people working in an impoverished area. We prove that change is not only possible, it is possible using very limited resources (its just a shame that some people think that they are more entitled to those resources than an entire community is). Grassroots, DIY solutions are the only ones which work for the people who need change the most.  We believe that projects like ours are the future. Greedy, self-serving individuals who care only about money are sooooo last millennium 😉

This essay originally appeared in the May 2018 edition of Doncopolitan magazine…

Warren Draper talks about the region of Doncaster and how we have been affected by the daily foods we consume and what the impacts are.

Words: Warren Draper

Photography: Warren Draper

As a region, Doncaster currently has the second highest proportion of overweight and obese people in the country. At 74.4%, nearly three-quarters of us, including myself, are officially overweight.

We may be one of the worst cases nationally, but we’re far from alone. As far back as 1997, the World Health Organization (WHO) formally recognised obesity as a global epidemic. In 2014, a study in the Lancet estimated that the number of overweight adults in the world in 2013 was 2.1 billion, over double the 857 million estimated in 1980. Studies have found that it’s not a case of people being lazy or greedy, but the result of a combination of genetic predetermination, poverty and, arguably the single most influential cause of the global epidemic, ‘obesogenic environments’.

Many humans carry genetic markers, which will make them susceptible to both weight gain and addictive personalities. Our genetic make-up can make life harder, but an understanding of it makes it possible to adjust our lives, so that we avoid situations which will make it harder for us to control our weight. Unfortunately, living in poorer areas like Doncaster does narrow our choices.

There is a direct correlation between poverty and obesity. Supposedly cheaper foods – when we start buying fresh veggies instead of processed ready meals we actually start to save money – are cheap because they are full of low-nutrition bulking agents, such as palm oil and whey powder, which rarely do our bodies any significant good and which often have disastrous environmental impact. Palm oil is threatening the survival of orangutans in the wild, but it’s hard to find any processed food nowadays which doesn’t include it in the ingredients. High-fat, high-sugar, processed foods are already highly addictive, but that doesn’t mean the advertising men hold back when it comes to trying to sell you their brands. Which brings us to the third, and perhaps the most important, problem of them all.

Obesogenic environments are, as the name suggests, environments which encourage obesity. Unfortunately, modern life has become one giant obesogenic environment. In terms of the immediate physical environment, both myself and my old friend, the mysterious Greenjacker, have previously highlighted the problem of Donny ‘food deserts’, where it’s easier to buy kebab than kale. These days, it seems like every other shop is a fast food joint, but very few of Donny’s satellite towns are lucky enough to have a dedicated greengrocer anymore. Unlike the greengrocer’s paper bags, the waste from fast food joints also makes up a very large percentage of the litter which further ruins our physical environment.

The cultural environment is even worse. Every day and everywhere, we are bombarded with tempting ads for so-called convenient, processed foods. The modern penchant for pricey posh processed junk shows that it’s not just a problem for the poor, although the wealthier a person is the easier it is for them to find help. As well as encouraging us to eat nutritionally sub-standard produce, the marketing men are also pushing up the price of healthier alternatives through the development of food fads. This makes it harder for poorer people to access certain foodstuffs and also leads people to believe that they are eating healthily when they are not.

Jackie from The Masons Arms, who along with places like Pure Lunch offers one of the healthiest menus available in Doncaster, tells me of her concerns about the trendy ‘superfood’ label. Jackie knows her stuff when it comes to food – we enjoyed a wonderful Doncopolitan chow down at the Masons’ earlier in the year and I can heartily recommend the sharing platters – and she is sick and tired of the marketing myths. Knowledge is the most important and powerful tool we have in the fight against obesity – knowledge of what our bodies really need and understanding of the negative pressures we face on a daily basis. Thankfully, people like Jackie and Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council’s Jennefer Holmes, who is in the process of launching a range of anti-obesity strategies in the borough, are leading the way when it comes to sharing information and dispelling misinformation.

Knowledge is essential, but to make a real difference in Doncaster it must be accompanied by access to affordable, fresh, healthy food. This magazine has always emphasised the need to build a stronger, more resilient and sustainable local economy, so now we’re gonna walk the walk and work towards building Donny’s first urban farm as part of a borough-wide good food strategy.

Bentley Urban Farm will see the former horticultural training centre at the back of Bentley High Street School brought back into use as a market garden. We will use a range of techniques, from permaculture to hydroponics, to provide affordable, fresh, seasonal produce whilst creating much-needed local jobs. The idea is to use Bentley as a testing ground to help seed other urban farms throughout the area.

And while we’re focusing on walking the walk, I’m going to use my own situation, as a pretty average, low-pay, overweight Doncastrian, to see what good food and regular exercise – there’s plenty of digging to be done – can do for my body, my mind and my wallet.

I’ll be documenting my personal journey in the pages of the Doncopolitan, but if you’d like to join me on my expedition to a brighter, healthier future, contact the magazine or Bentley Urban Farm to see how you can get involved. The more the merrier. Just leave the cream cakes at home.

bentleyurbanfarm.com

bentleyurbanfarm@gmail.com

07422 966 115

Grow Fresh, Grow Healthy, Grow Wild!

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BENTLEY URBAN FARM (BUF) is the world’s first upcycled market garden. Back in September 2016, the PermaFuture co-operative took over the run-down  Horticultural Training Centre behind St Peter’s Church on Bentley High Street.

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With help from amazing groups like The Ridge Employability College, the Primary Learning CentreBentley Park and our incredible volunteers, we use a range of reclaimed materials (stuff other people would simply consider ‘waste’) to repair, improve and maintain the site.

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Over time we have transformed it from an overgrown site in need of repair into a project capable of growing affordable, fresh, healthy local food while creating new opportunities for education, training, skill-sharing, employment and entrepreneurship for the people of Bentley, Doncaster, and beyond.

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We are using a range of restorative farming techniques, such as permaculture and hydroponics, to show the full potential of Doncaster as a centre of excellence for ecologically friendly farming. Doncaster has one of the best micro-climates in the north of England and, according to the Soil Association, the most interesting and diverse soil map. We have all the resources we need to grow a range of specialist, high-quality crops across the borough.

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BUF is just the beginning. We want people to use the skills they develop at BUF to start their own urban farming projects in each of Doncaster’s many satellite towns — each specialising in crops suitable for their own particular region — to create a Doncaster Urban Farm Network. Get involved with BUF today and you could be running a farm of the future.

Darren

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