Founders Fissha and Sophie by Katie Palmer
Cardiff Salad Garden is a Community Interest Company growing high quality mixed leaf salad in the centre of Bute Park, Cardiff. The garden is a commercial enterprise and community space with a focus on working with disadvantaged members of the community to offer gardening opportunities and stimulate social interaction and community cohesion. The primary focus has been on working with Asylum Seekers and refugees, but the garden is broadening this to work with a range of community members.
The idea for the project began several years ago, with founders Fissha Teklom and Sophie Durnan using their skills in community engagement and organic growing to develop the idea for a commercially successful community garden. The aim was to secure a central location to avoid the need for transport and be fully accessible. They identified Bute Park Education Centre as the perfect spot and entered into lengthy discussions with several Cardiff Council departments. The tenacity paid off and the duo signed a three-year contract for one 5m x 30m greenhouse in the nurseries area behind the Education Centre and Secret Garden Café. The work started in May 2017, using a small Do-It Award from UnLtd and they have since built raised beds, created the infrastructure to pick and pack salad and host volunteer days.
Cardiff Salad Gardens aim is to produce enough salad to be a profitable company with two part time employees whilst offering volunteer opportunities to the wider community. The vision is to grow high quality salad in an organic way and deliver a high quality product all year round to restaurants and the public in Cardiff. Even though the product is not currently certified organic, the grower Sophie is experienced with Soil Association Standards. Most deliveries are made on bicycle.
From this strong initial focus the team wants to open the garden up to the community to be a place where people can come to experience food growing, enjoy meeting new people, build confidence and promote wellbeing.
Successes to date
The company delivers to over 10 restaurants across Cardiff, including the Secret Garden Café and Pettigrew tea rooms located less than a few hundred metres from where the salad is grown.
The company is already self-financing the core overheads but not yet employee wages. They have the capacity to double the customer base and will use this income to pay staff wages over the long term.
A number of informative volunteer taster days have been held and the company is now opening the garden up for volunteers to join on Mondays and Wednesdays for regular sessions. Working with Cardiff Health Access Practice, the garden is offering opportunities to asylum seekers who are interested in coming to the garden. The garden is also exploring a social prescribing model with GPs, where people can come to the garden to reduce isolation, promote positive mental health and improve fitness.
Marketing is one area where the team would like more support and therefore welcomed the opportunity to get involved in Cardiff’s Veg City. The campaign will provide an umbrella to bring together potential customers, new volunteers and opportunities for expansion.