The strap line of the Balerno Village Trust (BVT) is “towards a sustainable community” and, with various members of the community at its core, it has been working on sustainability issues in the local area for ten years. I caught up with Director Lynn Molleson for some updates.
With Balerno being a community with a lot of families, food and the provenance of food is an issue that increasingly resonates. “People want to know where their food comes from, is it healthy, is it sustainable?,” says Lynn. The Balerno Farmers Market, BVT’s flagship project, provides a monthly event for a range of independent traders where people have options for food and can speak directly to producers and farmers. BVT’s worker focuses on supporting the Farmers Market.
“We also run the Farmer’s Market to maintain the community “space” in Balerno that it has become,” explains Lynn. It’s almost like a monthly pop up community centre, as there are limited options in the village for such a meeting place; it’s the focus for all sorts of extra activities. There is a theme to the market each month - Apple Day is coming up in November.
Integral with food questions of course is farming and gardening; a major challenge for environmental educators is to overcome the perception that food comes wrapped in plastic from a supermarket. BVT started a pocket orchard of fruit trees, planting over 80 fruit trees in 2011-2012. Sadly, some of the trees were sabotaged, but they have been replanted and the aim is that as they become established and bear fruit, which will take about five years, it will be freely available for any residents to forage and pick. Free, fresh, local, no packaging.
the fruit will be freely available for any residents to forage and pick.
“We also have bee hives being looked after by apiarists at various locations,” says Lynn, as without bees and pollinators, plantings are pointless. By increasing the population of bees, everyone’s fruit, veggies and crops will do a lot better.
One thing you can do to make a big difference is to plant flowers in your garden that bees and pollinators like. As the Scottish Wildlife Trust website states, “Over the last 50 years, there has been a staggering decline in our bee population. Habitat loss, intensive agriculture and the widespread use of harmful pesticides have all contributed to this crash in numbers. With 97% of Britain’s wildflower-rich meadows having disappeared since the Second World War, our bees and other pollinators are in a desperate situation and need our help more than ever before.”
without bees and pollinators, plantings are pointless. By increasing the population of bees, everyone’s fruit, veggies and crops will do a lot better.
Plant for bees! – corridors of pollinator-friendly plants are needed
The more people planting flowers the better, and the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s website here has suggestions for how you can help, including what are bee-friendly plants, making bee and bug hotels, letting your garden go a bit wild and avoiding use of pesticides. On the topic of pesticides, Pesticide-Free Balerno is a group (totally independent of BVT) working hard on eliminating use of pesticides by the council.
BVT's Main Street Gardeners have worked hard to maintain and enhance the bed at the bottom of Main Street and also the planters (working in partnership with the local nursery and school). This group gained a Highly Commended last year from Keep Scotland Beautiful
Since 2017 BVT also has a lease from the National Trust of Scotland on the historic walled vegetable plot at Malleny House in Balerno. A group of volunteers cleared and planted the garden and so far two seasons of vegetables have been harvested. Vegetables are sold at the Farmer’s Market as well as stocking the tables of volunteers! The garden is another fantastic way for people to come together and work on local food as well as helping with the upkeep of the garden at a historic property. If you would like to join them, or help in any way such as donating seeds or tools, please contact BVT.
“There was a deep focus on environmental issues from the very beginning for the Trust, and the local community has always been very supportive. For the first five years there was a lot of work on energy, which culminated in the Harlaw Hydro project.” The Harlaw Hydro now ticks along generating income for the local shareholders and the BVT. “10% of the income we get from Harlaw Hydro goes into our Community Chest, which is a fund co-administered by BVT and the Currie Balerno Rotary Club.” CALA Homes also contribute some money and the Chest is used to give grants to local organisations such as schools, social clubs, sports clubs. Any local club or voluntary organisation within Currie, Balerno, Juniper Green, Ratho and Kirknewton can apply for a grant. It’s very satisfying to know that a proportion of the money comes from green energy generated locally.
“10% of the income we get from Harlaw Hydro goes into our Community Chest
Contact Balerno Village Trust at:
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Article published in Konect October 2019
Author: Helen-Jane Shearer