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University, charity and farm shop unite to recreate African garden in Shrewsbury

Posted 13 May 2015

we face the challenge of recreating the poor conditions in Malawi – we cannot use modern materials such as bamboo canes. We have to strive for authenticity."

Left to right, Jan Haycox and Bob Hutchings, from Harper Adams; Stephen Drew from Medic Malawi, university Grounds Manager Mark Hall and Joyce Jagger, from Battlefield 1403 inspect the crops growing the university glasshouses ahead of the food festival

Harper Adams University, charity Medic Malawi and the Battlefield 1403 Farm Shop have united to plan an African kitchen garden set to feature at Shrewsbury Food Festival

Shrewsbury-based Medic Malawi funds a hospital in Mtunthama, in a rural area of the African country, together with a clinic for feeding the malnourished and an orphanage for 85 children. These life-saving facilities are served by a kitchen garden, run by Malawian gardener, Mr Brickson Phiri. 

The garden provides food to feed the needy and an income for the project, but it also provides a teaching facility, with Brickson able to demonstrate how best to plant and grow and use compost. The garden project is funded by Battlefield 1403 Farm Shop, Shrewsbury. 

The people of Shropshire have supported Medic Malawi for 10 years, and in a bid to demonstrate the good work being done in Mtunthama, the shop and charity decided it wanted to recreate Brickson’s garden at Shrewsbury Food Festival – and called upon Harper Adams University to help.

Stephen Drew, volunteer Director of Medic Malawi, said: “Everyone lucky enough to visit the Malawi garden says ‘wow!’ because of the transformation that has been achieved and the stunning contrast with the surrounding area where people do not have the required expertise or regular water. With the help of Harper Adams, and the continued support of Battlefield 1403, we want to recreate a sense of that for the people of Shrewsbury, on whom we depend for support for the whole wonderful, life-saving and life-giving enterprise in Malawi.”

With the expert horticultural knowledge of Harper Adams Grounds Manager Mark Hall, who holds a British Empire Medal in recognition of his services to Land-Based Higher Education and to the National Vegetable Society, plus the specialist facilities of the Crop and Environment Research Centre at the campus in Edgmond, near Newport, Harper Adams has started to produce crops that will be planted in the festival garden, as part of Battlefield 1403’s stand. 

Mark Hall said: “I am delighted to be involved in a display garden again, after previously working on the silver-medal-winning 2007 RHS Chelsea Flower Show garden with Telford and Wrekin Council, working with the late Geoff Hamilton on a BBC Gardeners’ World exhibition and, in 2009, building a garden in Shrewsbury’s Quarry, for the Flower Show, in conjunction with Wrekin Housing Trust. 

“For the charity garden, we face the challenge of recreating the poor conditions in Malawi – we cannot use modern materials such as bamboo canes. We have to strive for authenticity. I have been making the plans and Senior Glasshouse Technician Jan Haycox is putting in the work to grow more than 20 varieties of vegetable, from which we will choose a selection to put on display in June.”

The university will boost the African food demonstration by staging its Edible Bug Challenge at the food festival. To help the wider public better understand the benefits of insects as a food source, the university is inviting guests to sample small, medium and large, varieties of bugs: mealworms, chapulines and locusts. Those who complete the challenge will be awarded an ‘I Took The Edible Bug Challenge’ sticker. The challenge will also run at Newport Show, on July 11th. 

Medic Malawi is a small charity, run by a dedicated group of Shropshire volunteers. Every penny raised goes to Malawi – there are no UK administration costs or salaries. To learn more about the charity, explore the African garden and take the Edible Bug Challenge, visit Battlefield 1403’s stand at the Shrewsbury Food Festival, June 27 and 28, 2015. 

 

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