Jock Tamson’s Greens To Go
Just before I started working in the Gairden I had a short stint as a ‘personal shopper’ in one of the giant retail multiples. This involved shoving a giant cart around a vast supermarket and picking people’s internet shopping items whilst being instructed and timed by a computer algorithm which scores you on your speed and accuracy; I wasn’t very fast and didn’t always get it right. Huge respect to all of you personal shoppers out there. Given the algorithmic scoring method I seldom slowed down for anything but I did encounter an item in the fresh produce section which halted me in my tracks and provoked a five minute rant (to no-one in particular). A twin pack of asparagus tips and tenderstem broccoli, one all the way from Peru and the other from Kenya: combined that’s a whopping 10,598 air miles. Both of those nations grow perfectly good produce, but really: that’s a long way for your food to travel, not to mention that out-of-season lack of flavour.
So we are encouraged to ‘buy local’ to reduce our carbon footprint and also to support our local growers. Not always so easy to find locally-grown stuff though, eh? There are some stand-out shops around the city which promote low-mileage produce: Root Down in Portobello, New Leaf near the Meadows, the Real Foods Shops, and there is a new branch of Locavore opening in Gorgie later this year. In the meantime we’ve just opened our own wee stall: JOCK TAMSON’S GREENS TO GO. This is one of the ways we distribute the produce we grown in the Gairden. GTG was partly prompted by members of the public chatting to the volunteers while they’ve been out for a walk round the Gairden, “Do you sell your stuff?” “That rhubarb looks lovely, I love a nice crumble” “Those sweet peas smell amazing.” We also wanted to find a source of revenue to help our work be more self-sustaining, so all of the money goes back into running the Gairden and it’s various activities.
Lots of work goes into getting fresh produce onto the stall. Take, for example, the humble tattie: it starts out being purchased back in late winter; chitted to produce healthy shoots in a cool shed; then planted out around Easter (depending on the frost) in a bed that took hours of digging and weeding to prepare; earthed up as the shaws grow; checked for signs of diseases; harvested and stored; selected, weighed and bagged up. We had two excellent crops this year: Epicure first earlies (the old ‘Ayrshire’ variety) and Kestrel second earlies – much of their success was down to the diligence of the volunteers who did all the hard work and some of it to the seaweed-enriched ‘Kelpie’ compost from Caledonian Horticulture.
An important part of what we do in the Gairden centres around the people who work in it: our groups and volunteers. Learning new skills (ground preparation, sowing, maintenance, cropping, packaging, and selling). Working together with people you might not have met otherwise – tea breaks and blethering being just as important as the grafting. Some of the volunteers polished up retail skills they hadn’t used since student days and we all learned how to use the sumup card reader together. One of the Ians (we have three volunteers who answer to that name) has been making signs for us – he used his lockdown time usefully by doing an on-line sign writing course. Duncan is seen hard at work here making the prototype for the stall
As a new charity, Jock Tamson’s is just coming towards the end of its first year and it’s been a wild ride what with the pandemic and the weird weather. We wouldn’t have got off the ground at all without funding from these generous bodies: National Lottery Awards for All, Duddingston Kirk, AEB Charitable Foundation, Foundation Scotland, and The Robertson Trust. The funding to help us set up Greens To Go came from TransPennine Express Transform Grants and from Edinburgh and Lothians Trust Fund. A huge thank you to all of you for making this project possible.
So save yourself some airmiles and buy from Jock Tamson’s Greens To Go, you can find us in Duddingston Kirk Gardens between 11am and 1pm, Thursdays and Fridays.