On the night of April 1st/2nd, a large polytunnel belonging to Transition Town Dorchester (TTD), standing on the Community Farm off Middle Farm Way in Poundbury, Dorchester was seriously damaged. The plastic from the polytunnel, measuring 30 x 54 feet, was cut off and left draped over the now exposed hoops. The poly tunnel was only put up last spring – the growing season is just starting and many of us were growing seedlings at home on window sills to plant on in the poly tunnel.
Last year they had a spectacular crop of tomatoes which continued for weeks. It is not possible to grow tomatoes like this outside, particularly in such a windy spot as the community farm. The poly tunnel was an extremely valuable asset. It would cost around £600 to replace this plastic as well as a huge amount of effort on the part of the community farm volunteers
One of their members who lets out the geese in the morning spotted the damage at 7 am on 2nd April.
It was not randomly slashed, so they don’t think it can be put down to ‘mindless vandalism’. The plastic was carefully cut around the doors and the edges to maximise the amount of plastic available, so perhaps the objective was to take it away to sell or use – there is a demand for plastic to cover existing hoops. However, they don’t know why the plastic was not taken away, although it is a very large unwieldy piece, and it was windy that night. Three years ago the same thing happened to their old poly tunnel, which they had virtually abandoned – it was on the old community farm site, and one night the plastic was carefully cut off and removed. It was old and stained, but apparently still had a value.
TTD started life in Dorchester in 2008, when a group of people got together in response to the upsurge in interest in the international Transition Town movement, set up to combat climate change. In 2010, they secured the lease on a large field on the edge of Poundbury where they set up a community farm, renting the land from the Duchy of Cornwall. The Duchy subsequent needed the land back, so in 2018 they moved the community farm to a smaller field, adjacent to Middle Farm Way.
TTD is an organisation built round the broad aim of providing interested local residents with the opportunity to understand how to live in a more sustainable and resilient way, and thus to contribute to combating climate change. They have a variety of environment and sustainability related projects, including a thriving community farm, where they have outdoor raised beds; two community orchards, where they also keep poultry and bees; and a forest garden. The aim is to run the farm in as sustainable a manner as possible, using resources naturally available to us, including water, and demonstrating how this is possible. But it is not all about growing food – the aim is to build community, a vital part of sustainable living, and at the same time to create a harmonious living space which benefits birds, insects and bees, and the environment as a whole.
They generally have a workday every weekend, where people come up for a couple of hours to help out with whatever needs doing at the time. There are organised events to draw the wider community – and a get together once a month for ‘Green Drinks’, an apple day every autumn, where they bring out apple presses and make apple juice together, and this year they held three well attended tree planting days, on which almost 1000 trees were planted.
They have been devastated by the loss of their beautiful poly tunnel but they have been really cheered by the reaction from a whole swathe of people who have offered a variety of support and assistance to help us get the poly tunnel going again. However, they will continue cultivating our vegetables, whether they have a poly tunnel or not. They hope that when the lockdown is over, more people will come to join, because they believe that COVID has exposed the vulnerability of our food system, and they think that many more people are understanding the importance of the ability to grow food locally.