Help us Create Common Ground!
Common Ground is a social enterprise project offering a place in nature for marginalised groups in the community to come and learn and share knowledge about food growing, cooking and other land-based skills while reconnecting with the earth, themselves and each other. The project sits on a quarter acre of Soil Association certified organic land, as part of Stanmer Organics cooperative in Stanmer Park, Brighton.
It is more important than it has ever been for us to connect with our environment, our community, and each other. We need to understand how we can sustainably and responsibly cultivate and protect our fragile ecosystem for future generations. We can do this if we come together as a global community to meet the challenges we face. Common Ground is our local contribution to this worldwide human mission. We are passionate about people, the plants and the planet, and by raising this target it will allow us to give a range of opportunities for our community to support this mission.
Story so far
Alex and Nick took on the land three years ago after the site had been disused for five years and was covered with eight-foot-high stinging nettles. It took six months just to clear the entrance pathway, but determined to see what else this little patch of land had to offer they kept clearing. With the help of many enthusiastic volunteers, they have already constructed a small polytunnel and converted nearly half the site into productive food growing space. A levelled area has been cleared for the construction of a workshop and an area in the centre of the plot for an outdoor kitchen. There is a small pond that needs further clearing and expansion to give more space to the spawning frogs, newts and a host of other wildlife. The pond sits on the edge of a mini orchard of apple and pear trees, which is a more meditative space for those who just want to be in nature. The plan is to plant out more beneficial wildflowers in this area to encourage even more wildlife.
In 2018 we harvested over 250 kilos of food which was sold to cover running costs and buy in seeds for growing this year. Some seed was saved from last year’s harvest to trial this year and so far, they are doing really well.
The idea for the project was always to open the space up to people in the community. Clearing the site and getting prepared took longer than we thought. We now have a project team and a group of regular volunteers that are really passionate about our project and to work with marginalised groups from their community.
Who we are working with
In support of Brighton’s status as a city of sanctuary, the first phase of our project will be working with people from the refugee and migrant community. Behind the statistics and soundbites are people and their stories. We want to offer those who have been displaced a safe, welcoming space in nature where they can relax, learn and share skills and build friendships in a supportive and enabling community.
We will be working in partnership with Voices in Exile to offer their clients a place to connect outside the city and to be part of our community in Stanmer.
In 2020 we plan to make the space available to other marginalised groups within our community making this truly common ground for all those seeking a connection to nature.
What we’ll be doing
Our sessions run on a weekly basis every Tuesday and are shaped by the seasons.
Following the principles of permaculture, we grow in harmony with our living planet finding the balance with our surrounding ecosystems. As we grow our food we will deepen our understanding by trialling new ideas and when we harvest, we will cook and come together to eat.
Our participants will have the opportunity to learn and get involved with:
- Seed sowing and planting out
- Propagation and grafting
- Plant care and pruning
- Harvesting and seed saving
Organic land management
- Soil care and developing a healthy soil microbiome
- Beneficial plants and complementary planting
- Weed and pest control for organic growing
- Composting and using green manures
- The basics of eco building
- Raised bed construction
- Fence building with natural sustainable materials
- Tool care and maintenance
Cooking and nutrition
- Simple meal preparation
- Basic nutrition for general health
- How to make fermented foods and the benefits of consuming them
Our hope for this project is
- To reconnect people to the earth, each other and the food we grow
- To learn and share knowledge of land-based practices through organic food growing, cooking and outdoor activities
- To offer a calm, welcoming space in nature
What we need money for
We are aiming to create a self-sustaining project, where we will sell our produce in order to fund ongoing activity. But there are key structures and equipment that we need to put in place to run the sessions and workshops for our groups, and for this we need the support of our wider community.
We would love to build a sustainably sourced low impact workshop space we can use ourselves and also make available to other projects working in nature. This would mean we can offer a broader range of learning opportunities in all weather conditions as well as hire the space to generate income for the project. We already have eco builders who work on straw bale, rammed earth and hempcrete builds and the construction process will be run as a learning opportunity.
Cooking and sharing food brings people together and helps break down barriers. We need funds for an outdoor kitchen. This would be a communal cooking space consisting of a cob pizza oven, cooking stove, preparation station, sink and a seating area where we can share the food we are growing and create dishes together that all our participants can enjoy. We also plan to use this space to run workshops for the wider community in cooking and nutrition which will generate further income to help us be as self-sustaining as possible.
We are in desperate need of tools for our participants to use, such as forks, spades, shovels, hoe’s, wheelbarrows. Along with other horticulture equipment to support growing food.
Having a second polytunnel would give us the chance to lengthen the growing season allowing us to sell more crops, raising further funds towards our project. It would also open the opportunity to try a range of different food that requires those conditions to thrive and which our participants maybe interested in growing.
The Compost Loo
We need the materials to be able to self build a composite loo onsite for our volunteers and gardeners.
We have set up a rewards-based crowdfunding campaign to help fund the start-up costs for our project. You can choose to either purchase a reward or just donate directly using the tabs at the top right-hand side of the page.
About our rewards
£10 – Name engraved on our workshop wall. Have your name engraved, or someone you love to the inside of our workshop ‘wall of gratitude’, once it’s built.
£15 – Fermented food package. A bag full of fermented goodies; Sauerkraut, Kombucha, Kefir all locally made and delicious.
£20 – Herb Hanging Basket. A hanging basket full of wonderful aromatic organic herbs for you to hang just outside your back door, easy to pick when cooking. This item will need to be collected from BN2 9SH.
£20 – Cover Transport Costs. Pledging £20 will pay for transport costs from Brighton & Hove to Stammer Park for one of our participants for a month’s travel, enabling them to access all the opportunities our project has to offer.
£20 – Macramé Making Workshop. Make your own Macramé hanging basket for your lovely house plant. All materials and a hot drink will be included.
£25 – Yoga class in the beautiful setting of Stanmer Park with a healthy fresh lunch and raw juice included.
£40 – Organic Veg Box. Enjoy a delicious box of our own home-grown organic local vegetables, with recipe cards for meal ideas. To be collected from BN29SH between August and September.
£50 – Nature Connection Day. We would like to hold special nature connection days as added activities for our participants. Giving them the chance to learn about something they have chosen as group that theyre interested in.
£50 – 2 Tickets to our Summer Garden Party. Join us to celebrate the launch of our project in the summer. Once our workshop and kitchen are built and we have a good harvest to cook with, we’ll be celebrating with everyone who has been involved with the project and it would be wonderful if you could join us as well. There will be live music, activities and you’ll enjoy a home-grown feast and cocktails too, including some of our own home-brewed elderflower champagne!
£60 – Fermentation Workshop. A one-day fermenting workshop making your own sauerkraut and taking home a Kombucha scoby and starter kit, as well as learning about the benefits and methods of fermentation. A healthy lunch and raw juice is included. Workshop will take place in Brighton BN2.
£100 – Build a Compost Toilet. Purchasing this reward will help towards buying the materials to build a compost toilet on site for all our volunteers and gardeners. We will build this ourselves.
£350 – Forest School. A forest school inspired party for 10 children with between the Trees Bushcraft Company.
We really appreciate any support that you can give and if you can't give financially we'd be really grateful if you can share our Crowdfunder campaign on social media!
Meet the project team
As well as having a wonderful project team (who are volunteers), we have an amazing group of further volunteers who have been taking on a range of jobs from shooting and editing a film for this crowdfunder, designing our logo and leaflet, gardening, administration, promotion through social media and much more. We are incredibly grateful for all their support as we truly couldn’t do it without them.
Thank you for your time and reading this far!