Others may beg to differ, but Dexter Kelly is adamant: “Everybody loves food and if it’s organic and tastes good, people will buy it and eat it,” says the volunteer manager of the groundbreaking Global Garden, Global Kitchen project in Tottenham, north London. “That’s the whole idea.”
Adopting an “if we build it, they will come” approach to an organic community garden is bold enough. To do so in a location that’s become a byword for deprivation - not to mention the 2011 riots - will be considered madness by some. Yet, standing on a huge piece of scrubland just outside the Selby Community Centre outlining his vision, Kelly is confident the garden will not only transform the site, but the whole community.
The garden lies at the heart of an ambitious five-year plan to grow and sell healthy food, bring the myriad communities in Tottenham together and teach the unemployed, young, and retired new skills such as gardening and cooking.
It is being funded through crowdfunding website Spacehive, which is backed by entities such as The Big Lottery Fund and Deloitte and allows everyone from individuals to large corporations to donate cash, with donors only charged if the project’s funding target is reached. The first stage requires £11,500, of which more than a quarter has been raised so far.
“We want to provide the community with produce that you don’t usually see”
There’s still a long way to go, but Kelly is a man on a mission. “People are proud of Tottenham. It has always been seen as ‘deprived’, but I think the community wants change and to get involved. We had the riots, we’ve got the cuts. Now is the time.”
We’re not talking your bogstandard fruit & veg here. “There will be over a hundred different plants,” he promises. “Purple carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, loganberries, mulberries, different strawberries. We want to provide the community with produce that you don’t usually see.”
Not in a supermarket perhaps, but these are exactly the fruit & veg locals eat. “There are at least 90 different communities here,” he points out. “I can give a set of ingredients to the Greek community, and they’ll cook it in their way to the Turkish community, who’ll cook it in their way.”
Kelly’s own background reflects the area’s diverse demographics - his parents hailed from Jamaica and he grew up in America before moving to the area more than 30 years ago. As someone with a history of youth work along with City & Guilds qualifications in catering, Kelly is keen to get as many young, unemployed people involved as possible. “We’ll need 20 to 30 full-time volunteers,” he says. “I would like to see more teenagers and young people taking the helm and gaining ownership of the whole project.”
He’d also like to get going sooner rather than later. “I’m hoping to start in the next two months, mainly fruit first and then other crops such as herbs and potatoes,” he says. “It should all be up and running within the next five years.”
Kelly envisages the garden becoming a hub for new producers. He also plans to house chickens and bees. Eventually, he hopes to grow enough produce to run an organic market that attracts people from outside Tottenham. “People want to know what they’re eating,” he reasons. “It’s the uniqueness and freshness people will buy into here.” And Kelly’s global local vision.