Monday, August 2, 2010 - 11:01

Families who have been taking part in a pioneering community project to produce their own food have come together to celebrate their growing successes.

The Eden Project's Seeds, Soups and Sarnies programme was set up a year ago to encourage families from two contrasting pilot areas to grow, cook and share produce while learning new skills and forging stronger links in the community.

More than 100 people have now taken part in the Big Lottery-funded three-year programme which has been trialled in Cornwall's China Clay area and Middlesbrough.

Many of the participants came together last Friday to mark Seeds, Soups and Sarnies' first birthday with a celebratory tea party at Eden. Families also got to try out Eden's Survival Challenge and Summer Splash activities.

Project Manager Camilla Baker said: "We had some great feedback at the party. Hearing everybody's growing experiences has shown us what a positive impact the project has had so far.

"One lady I had met on the programme had never grown anything in her life before and she has successfully grown beetroot, carrots and lettuce - with more still to come! A granddad told me he used to grow his own veg but that was 20 years ago and this has got him back into gardening again.

"We've also had two people who have gone on to get jobs after being on the project, including one dad who now works in a garden centre."

Over the past year, Seeds, Soups and Sarnies participants have started their own community allotments, visited local farms for ideas and even learnt how to make nettle shampoo.

The project has provided gardening and cooking sessions, outdoor trips and other activities to give people practical skills and advice, while giving them the opportunity to meet other interested families in the community.

Briony Chapman first got involved in Seeds, Soups and Sarnies as a volunteer at St Austell Children's Centre where she helps run an allotment.

"It was great that everybody could get together and chip in with their ideas," she said. "I've learnt a massive amount of gardening tips such as using a water butt to recycle rain water and putting the plant, fenugreek, in the soil to help with its nutrients. I think it's really benefited us as we've had really good produce this year."

Other Seeds, Soups and Sarnies activities planned this summer include the Wild Days Out programme at Eden and food foraging around neighbourhood green spaces in St Blazey. There will also be a return trip to a local farm to see how the pumpkins and beans planted in May have grown.

The project works in partnership with a range of organisations to help bring people together including Cornwall Family Learning, Volunteer Cornwall, Cornwall Neighbourhoods for Change and ContinYou, who run the courses in Middlesbrough.

To find out more about Seeds, Soups and Sarnies, contact Cornwall Family Learning on 01726 891993.