The Big Dig Day - the biggest ever community gardening day

Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming today announced that 24 towns and cities have signed up to be part in the biggest ever community gardening volunteering day on 16th March 2013.

200 gardens across England will be taking part. To date the Big Dig project [2] has recruited 5,000 new volunteers and created over 18,000 opportunities for volunteers to take part in community gardening. The Big Dig Day will hope to tap into and channel the enthusiasm that exists both for gardening and volunteering and promote the positive effects that this can have on the health and wellbeing of individuals and their communities.

Linda Cleave, a volunteer from the People’s Community Garden in Southampton is in her 70s and has been coming to the garden for about 3 years. She had significant health problems in her childhood. She is a widow and both her grown-up children live elsewhere. Linda says: “Everything I do is solitary, and I wanted to meet people. I feel I have a use – that I’m putting something back into the community. I need fresh air and exercise for my health – and to keep going. So if I have something to get me up and out in the morning – like the People’s Community Garden – it’s great for me!” [3]

The Big Dig’s Clare Horrell said “We are delighted with the enthusiasm that our partner towns and cities have shown in taking part in the Big Dig volunteering day. We want to use the Big Dig Day to get thousands of new people involved and reap the positive effects that a community garden can have on them individually and on their communities”
Carlton Smith, Chief Executive of the Bradford Community Environment Project said "We are delighted to be part of the Big Dig and are looking forward to welcoming new people to our gardens. Working with your local community or creating your own space to grow fruit and vegetables is good for you physically, spiritually and is good for your pocket. Food growing is fun and a great way to meet new people. We want more people to experience the benefits to their health and wellbeing that comes from community gardening”

Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society, said ““The Big Dig has a fantastic record of engaging people in community gardening and this event will provide a real focus to help get even more people involved. The Olympics showed how much of a positive difference people can make by giving their time through volunteering and we should harness some of this enthusiasm to help the amazing range of community gardens that we have”.

For more information please contact Clare Horrell or Seb Mayfield on 0203 5596 777 or or or go to

Editorial Notes

1. The Big Dig is co-ordinated nationally by Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming which advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, enrich society and culture and promote equity. Sustain represents around 100 national public interest organisations working at international, national, regional and local level.

2. The Big Dig is is a nationwide project which aims to engage over 10,000 people in community food-growing projects across England. The following organisations are leading The Big Dig in the following towns and cities:
• Bath – Transition Bath
• Birmingham - Representatives of six food growing initiatives are currently leading the group. More information about the group can be found through Growing Birmingham
• Blackpool – Grow Blackpool
• Bournemouth and Poole - Ruralworks
• Bradford – Bradford City Council and Bradford Community Environment Project
• Brighton & Hove – Brighton & Hove Food Partnership
• Bristol – Sims Hill Shared Harvest
• Chippenham & Swindon – Wiltshire Wildlife Trust
• Coventry – Garden Organic
• Falkirk – Friends of the Earth
• Ipswich - ActivGardens
• London – Capital Growth
• Manchester – The Kindling Trust
• Middlesbrough – Middlesbrough Environment City
• Newcastle – Food Nation
• Nottingham -  Nottingham City Council Parks and Open Spaces Services
• Oxford – Community Action Groups Project
• Sheffield – Grow Sheffield
• Southampton - Catch 22
• Southend on Sea – Trust Links
• Totnes - Totnes Development Trust, Transition Town Totnes and Landmatters
• Taunton – Taunton Transition Town
• Walsall – Walsall Council

The Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens is also a partner in the project and is providing advice to community groups on land issues as well as organising training sessions. The project builds on the success of Capital Growth which has helped over 60,000 people to get involved in new community food-growing spaces in London. Capital Growth’s Edible Open Garden’s event in 2011 attracted over 1,500 visitors to community growing spaces in the capital. Follow The Big Dig on twitter @thebigdiguk, or visit our website

3. Interviews with volunteers are available on request.
4. The Big Dig is funded by the Social Action Fund and is managed by The Social Investment Business, on behalf of the Cabinet Office. The Fund supports social action projects in England from civil society organisations, public sector bodies and businesses with a track record of running social action programmes. The Social Action Fund is part of a broader programme of support for social action that was announced in the Giving White Paper and takes its place alongside two other sources of funding - Innovation in Giving Fund and Challenge Prizes.

 5. The March Big Dig Day takes place on 16th March 2013. Volunteer opportunities and events will be taking place across all the gardens involved in the Big Dig to make it the largest ever community food growing volunteer action day.

 6. The Big Dig is supported by Compost Direct who are providing in-kind support and prizes for each of the cities. Seeds are also being provided by Unwins Organics and the Heritage Seed Library,