Whenever Shepton or a Shepton initiative is mentioned in the national press, it’s virtually always positive coverage. For instance, this month Shepton Mallet was featured in the lifestyle and interior magazine Country Homes & Interiors, noting ‘A few reasons why we’d love to live in Shepton Mallet…’. The piece highlighted the town’s rich heritage, the abundance of social and community groups, and our location in the heart of stunning countryside. Who can disagree with that?

Last Sunday in The Observer it was the turn of the Food Forest Project; an initiative of Shepton Mallet Town Councillor Tristan Faith. Tristan (with the help of his brother Toby and friend Faye) set-up the Food Forest Project 3 years ago. It works at a community level to help combat mental health issues through the planting of ‘food forests’. They consider that chronic loneliness, social isolation, mental health issues, stress and fatigue, and many other forms of suffering can be much reduced simply by being in nature; by being mindful of one’s surroundings, and by planting and working in harmony with a food forest ecosystem. They work with local communities and collaborating with other organisations to help alleviate suffering for those that need a helping hand to find community, and a sense of purpose.

The team at the FFP believes that natural, organic food should be accessible to everybody, irrespective of socioeconomic standing. In supermarkets, it is often the case that the organic ranges are priced highly rendering the organic market unattainable for many families and individuals, and therefore overlooked by many consumers. The organic produce grown in their community plots will be accessible to all, at no cost. The health and wellbeing benefits instilled by being in natural spaces is huge for both body and mind. The NHS has started planting woodland as mounting evidence suggests that being in the countryside, specifically around trees can noticeably aid recovery.

Shepton already benefits from three of the FFPs projects; in a field off the Old Wells Road, a food forest has been planted that will reach maturity a couple of years’ time and therefore provide free produce for anyone visiting. The site is open now; feel free to visit and also sit and relax by the pond that was dug last summer by volunteers and now provides a haven for wildlife. Up at Rock Farm, home to another Town Councillor, Gavin Mayall, a three-tier food forest and native hedgerow has been planted. It is also site to a new education centre that will be used to teach local children about ecology and food provenance. And finally, right at the bottom of Town Street, in the ‘flower’ bed opposite the Fairy Godmother shop, the team have planted an edible bed that will emerge in the spring. For further details of the FFPs work, visit their website at www.thefoodforestproject.org or find them on Facebook.

It’s great to see the initiative getting a mention in a national newspaper, and, a little like their newly planted projects, I’m sure their organisation will grow into something really substantial.

Have a safe week.
Matthew Harrison, Chairperson