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A group on the Devon and Cornwall border seeks new market gardeners to fulfil growing demand.

If you want to help people make a living from small-scale horticulture, pooling production and even sharing tools can help to create the right conditions for them to get into and stay in the business.

That’s the aim of Tamar Grow Local, a not-for-profit Community Interest Company (CIC) that provides support and opportunities for people to grow their own food; educates the public on the benefits of local crops and works with supply chains to increase the availability of food from small producers.

Since 2007, the group has been working to develop community food projects and revive market gardening in the Tamar Valley where some 2,000 gardens produced fruit, vegetables and honey in the 1960s and ‘70s but which had dwindled to only 30 by 2005.

tamar grow local bridges gap 1

The numbers are now recovering, thanks to growing demand for local produce, although they are still well short of their level 40 or 50 years ago, said Simon Platten, who heads Tamar Grow Local.

“There’s a larger demand for local produce but there aren’t the producers and we’re trying to create a parallel supply chain that will incentivise people to scale up from hobby growing,” said Simon, 43, a former academic who wrote his doctoral thesis on the interface between market and “moral” economies in the market gardens of Indonesia, where growers made choices that wouldn’t make sense in purely economic terms.

TGL, which gets about two-thirds of its income from grants, currently works with 60 local producers including dairies and small-scale bakers. The group charges 15 percent commission on anything it sells for them, a rate that Simon says is a “much better deal” than they would get from a commercial wholesaler.

Projects include a honey-growers’ cooperative which pools the output of small-scale producers who are often “hobbyists” who can’t secure commercial customers because their supply is not sufficiently large or reliable.

Find out more about Tamar Grow Local at: www.tamargrowlocal.org.

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