A few months ago, our fireplace in the studio was condemned. It is a beautiful old thing, but something to do with it being too far from the wall meant that we could no longer use it to heat the studio and we had to use a plug in heater instead. As I began looking around for another option, I stumbled across the idea of putting in a wooden cookstove that we could use to bake bread and cook on while providing a sustainable and local source of heat for our main workshop and meeting space. Not only could we cook on it in workshops, but we’d been percolating an idea for hosting farm to table dinners and could you imagine if they could even be cooked on a local heat source?
And then I saw the price.
Far beyond what I had in my budget, the stove was a no go. As I sat in the studio, trying to think of answers, it occurred to me I could email the Forth Valley LEADER team to ask for advice. LEADER is a funding pot of European money for rural communities and our LEADER has a focus on food. While they loved the idea, they said, we probably weren’t a big enough project to justify the lengthy and onerous application process. Had we thought about crowdfunding?
Crowdfunding had been suggested to us many many times. In fact, almost every time I showed a video of my sheep escaping on Instagram stories, someone offered to start a crowdfunder to pay for the fence. However, we were reluctant. It didn’t feel right at the time or to pay for something like fencing. So we sat with it.
This time though, we began to recognise that in order to take things to the next level, we needed investment. The farm is beautiful, but old and not always fit for purpose. We began to really think about how we do things here and how we can make it work better.
For us, making our workshops and farm experiences accessible has always been a key aspect of making things work better here. Kevin and I met working at a summer camp for people with disabilities and he continues to run a participatory arts organisation working with the most vulnerable groups in society. We don’t ever want anyone to feel like an afterthought or that they may not be welcome because we couldn’t cater for their needs. Hosting people, making them feel welcome (and feeding them up) is the Kat and Kevin way, but we recognise that not everyone is able physically navigate or comfortable in a rural, muddy, uneven environment.
We began to ask ourselves “What If”. What if we could improve things so that we could welcome more people and ensure we catered for their needs? What if we could expand what we do to incorporate some of our dream ideas like farm to table dinners, more classes and Green Care Farming practices, because improving accessibility also means we would be allowed to carry out a broader range of activities than we do now. What if we asked for help from the big networks we’ve built up? Would anyone care?
We worked on it for months. Laying in bed, talking about it with everyone we knew. Pieces of the puzzle began to slot together and we began to get a better idea of a project. Our focus is improving the access and shelter so we can host people year round, improving the landscaping and access into the house so people can get up close and personal with animals, (and improving the hand washing facilities so environmental health is a bit happier). We want Gartur Stitch Farm to be a place that welcomes EVERYBODY to celebrate food and making and the beauty of this amazing place.
Our Crowdfunder is currently live. Please like and share and, if you can, donate.