Upon arrival at the Wolves Lane Horticultural Centre you can find volunteers and local growers by the main gate happily chatting away, sharing plant tips, requesting advice and information, and purchasing seedlings. Founded in April 2019, BLACKROOTZ is a black growers group based at Wolves Lane Horticultural Centre. The collective comprises of 10 members which include creatives, youth workers, teachers DJs, a BBC chef of the year, musicians, jerk pan makers all of whom have one thing in common; they love growing. BLACKROOTZ aims to teach Black communities about food growing and horticulture. The home of BLACKROOTZ has fondly been named “BackaYard", this is located towards the rear end of the centre’s distinguished domed glasshouse.
I spoke to lead grower, Sandra Salazar, about the importance of establishing a black grower’s group in London and about how BLACKROOTZ came into existence.
She explains “BLACKROOTZ was formed as a response to the changes happening at the Wolves Lane Horticultural Centre. We felt that we'd be stronger as a unit if we pool our expertise and develop an organisation that will inform and empower members of the black community on knowledge of plants, produce and the natural approach to health and wellbeing. Our vision was to initially set up a decolonised safe space where we’re able to create a sustainable business model which facilitates horticultural knowledge, share cultural roots through growing and provide an intergenerational learning space.”
Since the Covid-19 lockdown, BLACKROOTZ, like many other community-based initiatives have had to adapt due to the changes that have arisen as a result of the pandemic. Social distancing measures saw a decrease in growers and the restrictions on the use of public transport meant that many growers could not access the site.
Sandra explains “It has been difficult to do things that we had originally planned, our plant sale took a hit the first half of lockdown plus this all happened right at the start of the growing season. The lack of growers was an issue at first but in the past month, we’ve seen a real increase in the local community wanting to learn more about growing produce to eat, which is fantastic. We had to stop and readjust; it was a critical time for all the growing community here at Wolves Lane. But these things make us stronger, this experience has shown us the power of community solidarity, we have supported the local community by increasing the growing and production, we have created online courses and restored community gardens for local residents to use as a part of their physical and psychological exercise. We also supply free produce to local emergency food suppliers for vulnerable people. Despite the pandemic, we’re building new relationships in the local community as we can sell our plants at the site’s main entrance gate”.
Most recently, they have been thinking of new and innovative ways to grow plants in spaces other than the horticultural centre. They have begun growing at home and on other sites to increase development and productivity. Sandra states “We see ourselves as part of the global family, with emphasis on culturally rich produce, knowledge, and food enterprise.”
Their motto is “Inspired globally, grown locally”. If you are interested in volunteering with BLACKROOTZ please email Blackroots2020@gmail.com
by Alinah Roberts