Root Connections is a local Community Interest Co. on a mission to end rural homelessness by teaching valuable horticultural skills and offering safe accommodation on Manor Farm, Stratton-on-the-fosse.
Officially set up in 2018, manager Sue Cross-Bourton describes the set-up as “a community market garden”.
They were granted seed funding from Somerset Community Foundation to get the project off the ground. The garden sits alongside a hostel for rural homeless people, called The Dairy House. It has six residents currently, but is able to house seven.
After a three month stay at The Dairy House, residents can then move on to step-down accommodation, which houses four, in a house in Wells & housing within Somerset.
The Dairy House works as a three way partnership with Elim Connect Centre, Mendip Council & Addicott Partners.
Sue says that the Dairy House is “for anyone in and around the Mendips & Somerset, who are going through a difficult patch in their lives.”
Root Connections hosts Volunteer Land Days and meet on a Tuesday and Friday from 10:30am to 12:30pm, and are open to the wider community, not just residents & have a shared lunch every Friday – everyone’s welcome.
“We offer Social and Therapeutic Horticulture to help with recovery and Social Prescribing for any non-residents”, Sue says.
Rob and Suzanne Addicott are the tenant farmers on this beautiful Dutchy farm. “They live in the main house and have a real heart for the community. They’ve also set up Somer Valley Church in Radstock”, Sue explains.
“We’re hoping to link with BANES as well as Somerset and do some more compassionate and community work in Radstock.”
Root Connections operate on a two-acre site. They sell plants that they grow on site. They also sell cut flowers from April to October, and grow their own willow to make willow teepees. Veg box subscriptions are available to purchase throughout the year, too.
All of their veg is grown to organic principles, but cannot be labelled as such without certification from an approved organic control body. Root Connections are able to deliver the boxes within a twelve mile radius from BA3 4QF.
“We supply some local farm shops with our cut flowers and also do a subscription service during the months we’re able to grow them”.
“We currently have some winter salad on the go - which is quite a skill to grow throughout the year” “We harvested three kilos yesterday for all of our veg boxes. We picked and packed and they’re going off in our van now to be delivered.”
The project is hoping to grow by investing in a new building for the local community. The plan is to use the space to offer workshops, courses, events and teach valuable skills through cooking classes. Sue said, “we’re calling our new building the community hub & hope it will be a friendly welcoming space and accessible to everyone”.
They received enough funding to build the foundations and first phase, but need to raise sufficient funds to complete.
“The price of materials since we obtained planning permission has quadrupled. We’ve stretched the funding as far as we can and now looking to raise enough money to complete the second phase.
“In order to complete the building and make it fully accessible, we need an additional thirty thousand pounds. This will go towards an accessible toilet, kitchen for demonstration cookery sessions, an office – with power & drainage.
“If there are any builders merchants that can help us out by offering building materials that would be amazing… we really need Larch cladding but we don’t have the budget for it currently.”
In the future, Root Connections hopes to build a second building, as well as an access trackway off of the main farm track – with parking spaces so that people with limited mobility can still access the events they put on.
They have full planning permission for both already, and are hoping to continue fundraising to allow for these facilities to be built.
“We’re really hoping to have the first building finished by the summer”
They have a programme of events happening from the beginning of March which will help raise the much needed funds. Their Easter Fair will be held on the 1st of April – please keep an eye on their Facebook page, Instagram and their website for more details.
“Once this has been built, we can offer so much more to our residents and beneficiaries. We will also be able to put on events for the local community, which will be a mixture of ticketed places for those who can afford to pay and bursary places for people who can’t. We are trying to make our workshops and events affordable and accessible to everyone”.
Director Suzanne Addicott said there are many goals for the project moving forward.“Long-term, we want to help end homelessness and grow the local community. And we are doing it!”
“We’re serving Mendip and Somerset really, but we are looking to do more in Midsomer Norton and Radstock. With the cost of living crisis, we want to put on cooking demonstrations and show how our veg box could feed a family for a whole week.”
You can help Root Connections reach their funding goal by becoming a ‘Friend’ of the CIC . On their website, they describe how donations could help them. Twenty pounds would go towards buying seed, compost and essential gardening tools and one hundred pounds can help them purchase essential materials for the new building.
Root connections are always looking for new volunteers to help them with their horticultural efforts. They are also looking for help with their Crowdfunding page. For more information on how to get involved, and to learn more about the work that Root Connections do, visit their website.
Root Connections also do willow weaving