Dear John

At Newquay Community Orchard, local people are growing and learning together

This month, we're pleased to share a story from another of Church Action on Poverty's partners: Newquay Community Orchard in Cornwall.

At Newquay Community Orchard, local people are growing and learning together

You can’t rush things when you’re growing your own food. It takes time and patience, but the results can be joyful.

That’s plain to see – whether you have a solitary herb plant on a windowsill or seven productive acres built by and for the community.

Newquay Community Orchard in Cornwall is fortunate enough to be in the latter position. Their site covers a patch of land the size of three and a half football pitches. It brings people together and, in doing so, helps to tackle many social issues that could otherwise be easily overlooked.

You can't eat the view

People not from Cornwall often have an idyllic holiday-style image of it, but alongside the great wealth and beauty there is significant poverty. Campaigners here often say “You can’t eat the view” and held a conference by that name in 2019.

That conference was suggested by Andrew Howell (on the left in the above photo), who works as a change coach at the community orchard and who runs End Hunger Cornwall with local support.

He had begun exploring poverty in Newquay in 2017, with Cornwall Independent Poverty Forum and says: “The more we dug, the more we found, and the more we realised the vast scale of the problems here. The scale was epic, and we started putting some plans together.”

The orchard, which is the August feature in the 2021 Dignity, Agency, Power calendar, has been at the heart of many responses.

Rediscovering dignity and agency

Andrew says:

“People can grow stuff and prepare stuff and work through stuff, in a non-pressured way. You might spend six weeks here, or it might be five years. It’s about getting the space and pace right. People can go to the Job Centre when they’re struggling, and be told ‘Go get a job or we will sanction you’.

“But if they were referred to the orchard, we could have a chat and see how they were doing and help them break a cycle and they can really boost their dignity and agency – or rediscover it. 

“You can’t push that sort of thing. People find their agency and power in their own way, and until they do they need just a bit of support. But when they do find it again, it’s fantastic. I have seen so many people really turn their lives around.”

Best wishes,

Liam Purcell
Church Action on Poverty