Grower Profile: Katie Hastings

Katie is a Director of Mach Maethlon and one of the growers for our weekly veg box scheme. She says:

“Nine years ago I didn’t know anything about growing. I also didn’t know anything about how to look after myself. Years of being constantly on high alert, studying for a degree in Brighton while burning the candle at both ends and eventually getting heavily involved in environmental activism in Scotland had chipped away at my energy and peace of mind. Walking down the street in Edinburgh one day I thought I was dying. The world crumbled around me as my friends rushed me to hospital with sharp chest pains and no sense of balance.

“It’s just a panic attack” the hospital said. Two years of depression and panic attacks followed, leaving me feeling hopeless and broken. I didn’t know my place in the world and I didn’t particularly want a place, the world seemed to be a terrible horror house of injustice and cruelty anyway.

A doctor changed my life. She referred me to Redhall Walled Garden where I underwent a year of ‘horticultural therapy’ and training in organic gardening. Outside of the loops of adrenaline fuelled fear that ran through my tired mind there were seasons changing and plants growing. I planted sweetcorn and they grew into something I could eat. I made friends with some of the most interesting people I had ever met. I was given my own small allotment and I grew beautiful rows of edible crops. Sometimes I just sat by them and listened to the birds.

That walled garden nurtured me through the hardest time and gently grew me into someone new. Someone who knew how to rest, someone who knew how to breath deeply and someone who found joy in hanging around with plants all day.

I moved to Wales and into the Centre for Alternative Technology to do six month stint in the gardens. My learning and excitement for food plants grew. At the end of the placement I could not bear to go back to the city and decided to stay. Five us started the ‘Green Isle Growers’ coop in a rented walled garden of our own. We sold vegetables in a small box scheme which we delivered by hand. Although all we earnt for the entire summer was a pizza each at the end of the season, we learnt so much about growing food. I felt inspired to keep growing. I wanted to provide food for the local community.

That box scheme has grown into what it is today, a cooperative of local growers working together to supply vegetables to 50 households in Machynlleth (as well as selling a great deal extra on market stalls and in shops). Out of that has grown the community projects we also run – Dyfi Land Share and Edible Mach. Its hard work and it’s always difficult to find enough funds to keep things going… but it’s so fulfilling to see people in the community getting involved in food growing, public spaces being transformed and other people’s lives changed.

Being a small scale grower is never going to make us rich, food prices are just too low and we don’t get the subsidies that large scale farmers get. But I really believe that the world is changing, people want to see a diverse landscape that has more space for people and wildlife. We are starting to value locally produced food again and realise the importance of food security. It still warms my heart to pack up crates of tomatoes to be packed into our veg bags and taken home to the dinner tables of people in our community. Growing food has fed me in far more ways than one ”

Katie is growing as part of the ‘field gang’.
Sign up for a weekly veg bag from the Green Isle Growers today and receive some of Katie’s vegetables: http://www.machmaethlon.org/green-isle-growers/

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