Doncaster farm is trying to get people to ditch kebabs for kale
Bentley Urban Farm is a hidden green gem, offering to teach the community about growing sustainable fresh food.
Warren Draper is the founder and manager of the farm, which is hidden away just off the high street.
He said: “We are a permaculture-based natural ecology. We design human food systems which do not damage the local environment.”
Warren started on his eco journey by protesting against new road schemes, but three years ago decided to set up the Urban Farm in Bentley.
A fast array of species are grown in the garden – too many to count, according to Warren.
In return a range of insects are attracted to the site, notably hundreds of bumble bees which like the Phacelia flowers planted all over the farm.
Other visitors are the dragonfly nymphs at the pond and the occasional kestrel.
As well as his love for nature, Warren, aged 50, wanted to set up the farm to help out the local community.
He said: “Food poverty is a big issue, Bentley is the third-highest area of Doncaster that required food bank donations last year.
“It’s an area where it’s easier to buy kebabs not kale.”
But Warren and his team of volunteers are trying to bring about change. One of their initiatives is their ‘wonky veg' boxes.
These are a seasonal offer of rare and unusual plants that aren’t available in supermarkets. The profits from these boxes go back into the garden or to providing free boxes for underprivileged members of the community.
“It’s a poor area but we have all the resources to thrive here if we can just change people’s attitudes. Doncaster is a Peri-urban paradise and most people don’t even know it,” he continued.
Doncaster has a rare ecology; it sits in a valley, creating special microclimates. This makes the soil some of the most diverse in the North of England.
Warren wants to use this to the farm’s advantage and grow unusual produce to sell to restaurants and foodies.
Kevin Rodgers, 37, a co-operator at the farm, joined for the health benefits that being in nature can give.
He said: “I was in a position where my mental health was suffering, I was in a stressful job and had just been diagnosed with diabetes.”
“The farm gave me a space where I could relax and I learnt to grow plants and food.
“I’ve seen a great deal of improvement in myself, having this alternative space and being able to be creative and inside nature has made a massive difference.”
The farm aims to show people the benefits of growing produce and stepping away from the ‘fast food’ lifestyle.
“No one expects you to be an expert here, we all learn as we go," Kevin continued. “You can learn how to grow food at home in your own garden, it re-unites people back with food.”
As well as Warren, Kevin is passionate about teaching the local community about gardening and fresh produce.
His advice for beginners is to try to grow a radish. They’re relatively simple to plant and only take a month until they can be eaten.
“In central Bentley you are only ever one minute away from a takeaway, but there isn’t a single greengrocer in the entire town.
“We understand that people sometimes need a quick and easy food option but it’s detrimental to their health and our whole community.
“We know that the stress of modern life pushes people towards fast foods but we want to help show people there is a different way.”
The Urban Farm is looking for volunteers. People can call in on Fridays, 10am to 2pm, or Sundays from 1pm to 4pm, and get stuck in by pulling weeds, planting seeds and harvesting fresh vegetables.
A series of workshops are also happening over summer covering topics such as seed bombs, generative culture, re-wilding and bedding.
There are pizza lunches too, where visitors can pick their own toppings off the farm and then cook meals in the farm’s own pizza oven.