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  • Focus on: Offshoots Permaculture Project

    Focus on: Offshoots Permaculture Project

    Call to get behind Lancashire's entry in EU competition

  • Focus on: Offshoots Permaculture Project

    Focus on: Offshoots Permaculture Project

    Call to get behind Lancashire's entry in EU competition

Focus on: Offshoots Permaculture Project

1st Aug 2013

Lancashire CRN member Offshoots held an open day in July as part of their drive to promote their entry into the ‘A World You Like’ Challenge – an EU-wide competition for creative and innovative minds from to put their low-carbon initiatives to the test and inspire others to follow suit.

At Offshoots, permaculture is put into action with an enormous variety of vegetables, fruits and herbs grown organically and supplied to local restaurants. You can also see heritage craftwork in action including green wood-working (bodging) and blacksmithing, a team making yurts or sale or hire, a bee breeding project for rare British black bees and training in bee keeping, foraging, willow weaving, permaculture and much more.

Connie Hedegaard, EU Commissioner for Climate Action said “The World You Like Challenge is a great opportunity to move beyond mere talking about climate change. By submitting your project, you show that building a world we like with a climate we like is feasible and affordable. And it won't make our lives dull and grey".

Offshoots is one of 269 entries into this competition and they need your support to get into the top 10, from which a panel of judges will choose 3 winners...

What is Offshoots Permaculture Project?

Offshoots is a flourishing garden based on 21st Century green technologies is one of only 37 UK land learning centres recognised by the Permaculture Association. 15 years development has proven its community worth with 6000 visitors a year.

Offshoots project committee covers the spectrum of the local community, with executive managers, a local councillor, local residents and people recovering from enduring mental health and other issues.

Sharing of ideas, principles & cultures informs every committee meeting guiding the project. In turn, the project is a lodestar for Burnley - sharing knowledge, challenging current practice and debating issues of sustainability facing the town and global environment.

What challenge does your project address?

Its purpose is to refocus society's view of the environment in which that society exists whilst ensuring the financial sustainability of the project so that it can continue to make a difference. When the principles and practices are utilised the net result is a no waste, efficient use, virtuous circle applicable to any subject or situation able to demonstrate how current needs can be met without depriving others societies elsewhere or in the future.

A particular challenge which is addressed by Offshoots is the energy demand of the activities and the ability to demonstrate how these can be delivered in a carbon neutral way whilst providing a wide range of additional benefits to society. The challenges involved in this cover more than the environmental ones that we face today and the project demonstrates improved mental and physical wellbeing of the communities we support via commissioned academic research.

The site addresses many different challenges that are underpinned by the 3 core ethics of permaculture: people care (provision for all life systems to continue and multiply), earth care (provision for people to access those resources necessary to their existence) and fair shares (by governing our own needs, we can set resources aside to promote Earth Care and People Care).

What solution does your project present and why is it unique?

Our solution is a living, working example of sustainability involving the whole community through projects, training courses, as visitors to the site, as volunteers, as businesses who support the site or use it for corporate away days, or through colleges and schools running training courses. The project is unique in two ways.

Firstly, the management committee reflects the complete community spectrum of the town of Burnley where it is located, with representation from executive managers through to people recovering from enduring mental health and other problems. Secondly, our project is also unique in the way in which we ensure financial sustainability of our activities.

Offshoots is managed by Groundwork Pennine Lancashire, a social enterprise that operates as a commercial organisation and then reinvests any profits back into the community. Groundwork Pennine Lancashire started as three charities that merged following a particularly unstable financial period for all three. The organisation then began a journey to financial stability, which included: changing the business structure to a social enterprise, the implementation of ISO standards in quality, environment and health & safety, and an investment in marketing to re-brand and appeal to and influences the private sector. Whereas other similar projects rely heavily on grant funding, which presents an increasing risk in the current economic climate, at Offshoots much of our income comes from tenders & contracts.

What is your project’s contribution to fighting climate change and how does it promote climate-friendly behaviour?

The permaculture garden itself is CO2 neutral and has solar and wind powered buildings, a kiln for making charcoal to power our blacksmith forge, a wildlife pond and water purification reed bed, compost toilet, cob building with bread oven, tree nursery, forest garden, backyard garden demonstration beehives and green waste compost bays.
The site can therefore generate energy, purify water, create fuel and process food – all of which are considered heavily dependent on fossil fuel with resultant CO2 emissions. The site is open to the public and is free to visit – the decision to do this was made so that we could attract as many visitors as possible and educate them about sustainable ways of living.
Guided tours are available for visiting groups and are also delivered to school children and young people, as a way to educate younger generations about environmental issues. Through Offshoots we have delivered many environmental projects such as the Upland Moorland Restoration project which involved collection of local seed, propagation and planting of cotton grass plugs on local moorland to preserve eroding peatbog thereby combat climate change.

The project included free workshops with schools and community groups to broadcast the message on peatbogs and climate change. We work with our 30 strong regular volunteer body on the direct management of the 27 hectares of surrounding woodland and have been involved in creating 5 acres of coppice woodland.

Who benefits from your project and how?

Offshoots educates a wide range of people on the ethics of permaculture and, in addition to our 6000+ visitors a year, Offshoots staff deliver site tours, educational workshops, activities and corporate team building exercises.

The local community and visitors to Towneley Park (where the site is located) benefit from a training schedule that incorporates; organic food production, woodland management & timber processing, eco-building construction, arboriculture, renewable energy systems, organic water purification system, beekeeping, and eco-art therapy.

We also ensure that we involve people from many different backgrounds and ability levels in the day to day running of our site providing a phased return to social engagement for many of our beneficiaries recovering from ill health or the effects of previous substance misuse. The scope of our activities ensures that all work carried out is fulfilling, productive, enjoyable and rewarding.

For many people, this ‘green therapy’ is a therapeutic tool that enhances mental and physical health and wellbeing, increases self esteem and improves social skills. Following visits to Offshoots, similar projects have been established elsewhere, e.g. Berlin (Hellesdorf Oasis), Ballymoney Northern Ireland (Peas and Love) and Hesketh Bank (New Shoots). The award winning Hellesdorf Oasis project was created as a direct result of a six month work placement at Offshoots under the EU Leornardo project.

What are your achievements so far?

For over 15 years Offshoots has evolved and demonstrated an environmentally and financially sustainable lifestyle model that has thrived and been recognised by local people, business partners and international visitors as an effective framework for replication.

We have developed a franchise package offering expert advice in creating a permaculture site, including bespoke design plans from our landscape architects and have provided support to projects throughout Europe. We have hosted numerous visits from international partners and are currently investigating a tripartite social development project with agencies in London and Berlin.

The networks and reputation developed have enabled us to promote a wide range of local environmental campaigns such as ‘Bees in the Borough’, which started with a successful public campaign to include the native Black Bee in the Lancashire Bio-diversity Action Plan.

The project is a 2 year programme of detailed study and reintroduction of the virtually extinct native Black Honey Bee which with all bee species was suffering from recent weather variations as a result of climate change. This type of research project would normally be confined to a ring fenced academic programme. In this instance however, 200 local people receive direct training in beekeeping & queen bee rearing, and some will receive free nucleus hives containing small colonies, enabling them to cascade the knowledge to their particular community at the street level.

Further comments...

Offshoots is a circumstance specific delivery vehicle for holistic lifelong responsible citizenship. The permaculture model is easily adaptable, however and therefore applicable to all geographical/social circumstances as demonstrated by the many groups inspired to set up similar projects following visits to Offshoots.

Solid outcomes are required to demonstrate and secure constructive and responsible change - permaculture when practiced correctly provides real and lasting outcomes but is flexible enough to account for the variables that each situation and location inevitably throw up. When successfully achieved (as we believe it has been done so at Offshoots), it is the distilled wisdom, experience and hard work of the community that has created it.

It can be depended upon to thrive into the future, sustain livelihoods, restore and protect the environment and build hope in communities. It provides a basis for a wide range of other research and communication projects which promote a resilient and cohesive community. As such, we believe permaculture must be promoted to the wider scope as a solution to the energy crisis and climate change.

Get in contact:
Groundwork Pennine Lancashire
193 Bolton Road
BB23GE Blackburn
United Kingdom

Offshoots are also on Twitter and Facebook.

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