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12th April 2023

A Biosphere team visit to the MAC-CAN Croft

The GSA Biosphere’s full team headed down to the south of the region this week to meet members of the Machars & Cree Valley Climate Action Network (MAC-CAN) and take a tour of their pioneering community croft, a sustainable permaculture space located in the Biosphere Community of Whithorn.

The weather was dreich but against the grey skies the new shoots around the garden were an even brighter green. The rhubarb is coming up, several varieties of apple trees have grown their first spring leaves, and in the polytunnel broad beans, onions and lettuce are starting to sprout. The croft has a pond which is home to frogs, toads and newts, and plenty of space is left undisturbed, a wild haven for invertebrates and birds.

The MAC-CAN Croft was founded by local residents George and Mary Pattison, who have given the space to the community to support sustainable food growing and sharing, and the creation of stronger social connections in the community. People come to the croft to grow healthy, seasonal fruit and veg, learn new skills and make new friends. With its historic barn and workshop the croft is also a venue for local events from wellbeing to willow weaving – some with stone-baked pizza fresh from the oven built in the croft!

After the tour we clustered around a tableful of hot drinks and cake to talk about the croft and projects that volunteers have underway. Sustainable food of course is a worldwide issue, and the conversation progressed from heritage apples and the Machars Abundance project to questions around the sustainability of seed production: who gathers the seed we buy to plant in our gardens? Is the seed local or produced abroad? How and why are varieties ‘copyrighted’ and who has access to seed? What can we do to make seed more accessible, to encourage education around food growing (especially among children), and to ensure we are acting ethically in our trading?

MAC-CAN has a packed events calendar with lots to do for all ages in and around Whithorn. Gardeners and growers around the Biosphere might like to pop down to one of their regular produce and plant shares – moneyless swaps where tools, seeds, pots, jams and home baking are all very welcome. Also in Whithorn the South Machars Community Centre has a Community Fridge and Re-Use Shop; the fridge is open to all, 7 days a week, and the shop sells pre-loved clothes, books, household goods (and much more) for bargain prices. All these projects are helping to support local people through persistent challenges such as financial hardship and social isolation, with the added benefit of reducing the amount of food and other items going to landfill. We also highly recommend the MaD Festival of Creativity which will return later in 2023 with dates at Whithorn – keep an eye out for when the programme is announced.

For more information about MAC-CAN and how to get involved as a volunteer either at the croft or in other local climate action projects, please get in touch via Huge thanks to Mary, George, Chris, Lucy, Elizabeth and Jon for showing us around, telling us more about the initiatives they are leading, and being such fantastic hosts.

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