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Stepping into the EcoHub, it’s hard not to be blown away by the size of the place, seemingly all constructed by staff members with the help of volunteers. Multiple raised beds stretch out across the plot, accompanied by a thriving chicken coop and a sweltering greenhouse, as well as a barn, which stores all the tools, clothing and materials for volunteers and staff to use. Outside the perimeter, there are plaques identifying each of the many trees grafted and planted across campus. The herb boxes and the Pendle ‘Pick-your-own’ plantation mark the handiwork of EcoHub contributors. Yet they intend to grow even more robust in the 2016, and are already off to a running start. Speaking to Sam and Victorio, both Green Lancaster ‘Edible Campus’ staff members, I was shown around the various facilities, as they explained what was currently growing.
In terms of crops, the two informed me they have ‘some beans and peas, which have already been sown…Swiss chard, rhubarb and kale’. I was then shown the greenhouse, which was home to a healthy crop of spinach and lettuce. But much more is grown throughout the year, and as I spoke, a new raised bed was being constructed, which I was told would allow them to grow ‘fully-sized pumpkins of our own’, alongside the other ‘staple’ crops that they eventually sell on campus. But one of the key factors of the hub is its growth of obscure and even endangered crops; last term, there was a drive to preserve rare UK apple species, and an apple specialist was brought in to train staff on how to graft trees.
Currently, the staff and volunteers are doing maintenance of the EcoHub and are adding new raised beds outside of the hub. ‘Facilities gave us an extra two-hundred square metres at the front [of the EcoHub]’ which they then explained would allow them to start ‘markets at the Thursday farmers market, selling vegetables.’ One of the beds is also dedicated to encouraging local schools to grow on campus too! This outreach extends to the Ecology Society, which has installed a bird-hive, (allowing them to keep track of the count of the different bird species that visit the EcoHub) and often run a Saturday action day every month, which often involves a special event revolving around the cooking of said crops!
With ‘150 [trees] planted on campus, which is always increasing’ and a whole host of plans for the future, the EcoHub is set to keep growing! I caught Darren, the head of Green Lancaster, helping out, and when I asked about what the mission statement for the EcoHub was, he told me ‘It’s to basically get people doing practical hands-on sustainability on campus!’ Couldn’t be any better, in this author’s opinion!
If you would like to contribute to the work done at the EcoHub, action days take place on Wednesdays and Fridays, from 1pm to 3pm. Volunteers are free to arrive and leave whenever they wish and are regularly offered portions of the current crop in gratitude for the work!