TRUSTEES ANNUAL REPORT
The financial statements have been prepared in accordance with the accounting policies set out in note 1 to the financial statements and comply with the charity’s constitution , the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005, the Charities Accounts (Scotland) Regulations 2006 (as amended) and “Accounting and Reporting by Charities: Statement of Recommended Practice applicable to charities preparing their accounts in accordance with the Financial Reporting Standard applicable in the UK and Republic of Ireland (FRS 102)” (as amended for accounting periods commencing from 1 January 2016) .
1. Objectives and activities
The charity’s objects are to promote the advancement of education by training people to produce food in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way. In addition, our activities can reasonably be expected to also promote the relief of poverty, specifically food poverty, through the development of skills, including but not restricted to, food growing, preservation and cooking. Environmental protection and improvement by, for example, teaching the benefits of wildlife to food production and by creating healthy soil ecosystems. The charity promotes the use of land for recreational purposes by, for example, the creation of community gardens and other growing spaces.
The trustees have paid due regard to guidance issued by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator in deciding what activities the charity should undertake.
2. Achievements and Performance
By the beginning of the financial year, the country was already in lockdown as a result of Covid-19. This report sets out how Abundant Borders staff and board of trustees adapted in order to meet the challenges of the virus.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES
The board of trustees adjusted their way of working by having meetings on-line. The constitution was amended to reflect this changed way of working and registered with OSCR.
The AGM was also held on-line and was attended by 22 people, including a representative of our biggest funder, The National Lottery, as well as volunteers and partners.
At different times throughout the year, the community gardens had to be closed to volunteers, but were well looked after by members of staff. Food continued to be grown and was shared with local groups who were delivering fresh and cooked meals to people who were unable to leave their homes. Later in the year, we donated to several local food larders which had been created in village halls and community centres in response to Covid-19. In total 450kg of produce was given away.
In August we were able to welcome volunteers back into the garden and were able to share produce with them too. Procedures were put in place to ensure safe working and numbers were restricted based on the size of the individual gardens. Unfortunately, as soon as the country went back into lockdown, volunteers were no longer able to be on site. This remained the case for the rest of the financial year.
During this year we continued to be in touch with two groups who were in the early stages of creating community gardens. The community at Cockburnspath now has funding in place to take their project forward and Abundant Borders will continue to work with them and support community growing. Similarly, we have been supporting the community at Foulden in their aspirations for a community garden. The garden is now going ahead, and the project will start in spring 2021.
At the end of the last financial year, we were planning a formal launch, together with partners, for the new garden in Duns. Due to lockdown restrictions, a formal launch and large-scale community engagement was not possible. Thanks to the work of the Project Co-ordinator, supported by volunteers at times, the garden did come into production. Potatoes were grown for food and to improve the soil quality. The potatoes were donated to the local food larder. A bid for 30 fruit trees to Tweed Forum was successful and so we now have a mini orchard in place. A shed has also been erected and tools and equipment purchased, so everything is in place to support future growth and development once the garden re-opens fully. An outdoor classroom has been purchased for the site and is due for delivery spring/summer 2021. This will allow delivery of training in the garden and will allow people to continue to meet outside in poor weather, even if restrictions on indoor meetings are maintained.
The Ayton Community Garden has continued to mature, and we have been allocated an additional piece of land there by BHA. This will come online in Spring/Summer 2021, once the housing development on which the garden is sited is complete. New residents will be encouraged to volunteer in the garden and to enjoy its benefits.
The Eyemouth Community Garden has been developed in the last year, with improvement of existing vegetable beds and creation of new ones. We continue to collaborate with Connect Youth Project, which has an allotment next to Abundant Borders, and have together created a fruit bush nursery.
The Hawick Community Garden has been improved because of work by a tree surgeon. Much of the garden had been in shade but the removal of overhanging branches has made the garden much brighter and increased the available growing space. As a result, the Volunteer Co-ordinator has will be able to bring more of the land into food production in 2021 and has been promoting the work of Abundant Borders in the area.
The herb beds at Eyemouth (in front of Jarvis Pickle) continue to be cared for and well used by the local community. A further two beds were adopted in Reston village.
The restrictions on meetings and household mixing meant that we were not able to recruit further volunteers and the involvement that we had with schools and village halls ceased completely.
We were, however, able to continue to deliver training courses, by taking learning on-line. In February and early March 2020, 12 people were taking part in a training course in sustainable growing, based on the Community Food Garden in Duns, with further courses planned for later in the year. The Duns course could not be completed as lockdown restrictions came into place which prevented groups meeting indoors or outdoors.
At this point, Abundant Borders took the decision to move training on-line. A dedicated training support page was established on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/virtualcommunitygarden) and the training material normally delivered over a six- week period, face to face, was converted into seven modules (Units on the group page), accessible from the Abundant Borders website: (http://abundantborders.org.uk/training-programme/virtual-community-garden-learners/) and downloadable to view or as printable documents.
Modules were made available one per week over a seven-week period, with live support to answer questions each week. Four hundred and fifty people joined the Facebook group and there have been over a thousand downloads of the course material from the Facebook group alone.
In November and December, the course was delivered by live ZOOM workshop sessions, one morning per week over a four-week period. Twelve people attended this course, primarily from the Scottish Borders but with attendees from across Scotland and one from as far away as Kent.
The feedback from these courses has been positive, with participants saying that the courses “were clearly and professionally delivered” and that they were, because of taking the course, “more aware how we live our lives as a family …. living better”. Another commented, “this training has given me confidence to have a go at home and not to worry about doing it right or wrong”.
The Grow and Learn programme, delivered in partnership with Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society, was converted into an on-line course for young people, Little Robins, which is also accessible through Facebook and the website. The first young growers to complete the course were the Fox Covert Young Gardeners, eight young people who learned to grow food, make compost, look after plants and encourage wildlife throughout lockdown.
We created a completely new seed-saving course and are training 16 people to grow vegetables in their own gardens and to save seed from these plants. A group came together to learn and to support each other in late 2020. They have a private Facebook group where they share experiences and learning with each other and from where they can access information, videos and training course material from Abundant Borders. The first seeds will be planted in Spring this year and harvested in autumn. The seeds collected will then form a distributed seed library for people to share with each other and with those who struggle financially so that they can receive free seeds in future years. The seed saving course has been made available beyond the group of 16 and the course material has been downloaded over 50 times. We have also been supporting other groups, for example, Greener Melrose, in establishing its own local seed library.
Twenty-five information booklets have also been created, covering many aspects of the sustainable growing course, from composting to pruning, which can also be downloaded from the Abundant Borders website: (http://abundantborders.org.uk/training-programme/growing-together/). These have been downloaded and shared many times from the website and via social media.
So, while we were unable to deliver this activity in the way we envisaged at the start of the period, we have been able to reach many more people with this training than anticipated.
Two Q & A sessions were held on-line. The first answered questions on all aspects of sustainable gardening from participants across Scotland. The second was held in response to the many requests for advice on community gardening, how to get funding, how to encourage and support volunteering, etc. Subsequently we have asked by Keep Scotland Beautiful to do a similar session for them and their membership.
In February and March 2020, eight people were taking part in a REHIS Elementary Cooking Skills course in Eyemouth. Lockdown restrictions meant that the course could not be completed. Training was taken online with 13 “Cook Fresh” videos produced showing how to cook some simple, healthy recipes and how to preserve food surplus: (http://abundantborders.org.uk/cook-fresh/).
These were made available on the website and through social media and have been shared and viewed many thousands of times.
We also added to the healthy recipes on the website, with over 70 now available: (http://abundantborders.org.uk/our-cooks-favourite-recipes/) to download to view or print. The recipes have been widely used by local groups, including LINKS Eyemouth, with Abundant Borders supporting the printed recipe book that the LINKS Eyemouth group prepared, to support its network of families. The Local Area Coordination team for learning disabilities refer their clients to these pages as the recipes are easy to follow and offer healthy options.
The first on-line cooking course started in February, with six people learning elementary cooking skills. These courses differ from the Cook Fresh videos as people cook along with instructions and sit down to eat at the end of the session to share their experiences of cooking and eating the food. The aim is to mimic the learning and social interaction that takes place in the face-to-face courses. All of those taking part are vulnerable adults, with mild to moderate learning difficulties. This part of the population has been particularly badly hit during the pandemic with the closure or scaling back of many social clubs and support activities. This first on-line course has been designed specifically to meet the needs of this group. The local authority support worker who sat in on the course commented, “The instructions were clear and concise. It was clear that everyone was enjoying themselves.”
As a result of this course, informal sessions are now happening every two weeks with everyone who took part continuing to engage as well as others becoming involved.
2. Tackling Social Isolation
The Scottish Borders is a rural area with many small, isolated villages with poor transport links. Abundant Borders brings activities to local communities, using village halls and community centres for social food initiatives and cooking courses and creating accessible community gardens.
It has been a challenge therefore to support our volunteers and other users of our services throughout the pandemic.
Whenever we have come out of lockdown we have worked to get volunteers back into the community gardens. When this has not been possible, members of staff have maintained contact with particularly vulnerable and/or volunteers who live alone. This has been done through email, telephone calls and meeting for socially distanced walks.
We have continued to engage with a wide range of people who are interested in the work of Abundant Borders, through social media.
3. Looking Ahead
For 2020 we had planned to introduce a sustainable growing course based entirely on outdoor learning. The course is based on the Grow and Learn programme managed by the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society and certificated by them. At the appropriate time, spring 2021, we will re-instate this face-to-face teaching.
This is a person-centred programme which rewards individual progress and achievement. Each learner undertakes a range of core tasks, from seed sowing to planting and then chooses which additional activities they want to undertake as well as setting themselves personal goals. It will allow learners that are unable to participate in the current course to be fully involved in the community gardens, allow existing volunteers to continue their learning journey and promote regular volunteering and commitment to community gardening for those who are currently on the margins of the projects.
Additionally two members of staff will provide training opportunities, primarily with young people, to SVQ level, under the supervision of the science teacher at Eyemouth High School who is accredited to do this.
Abundant Borders is a registered REHIS Training Centre for Elementary Cooking. For those who have achieved the Elementary Cooking Skills award, we are introducing the opportunity to complete the next stage, either the REHIS Introduction to Food Hygiene or Elementary Food Hygiene qualification. This will give participants the opportunity to move into employment in food retailing and/or allow them to become more active volunteers in our social food activities, for example by helping at the social lunches and workshops. Additionally Abundant Borders, in partnership with BAVS will provide training to community members who are supporting food larders. This may also provide an opportunity to provide income generation for the charity.
We will be increasing the social food activities which will provide further volunteering opportunities for people who have completed cooking courses and ensure that they continued to be supported. It will also ease the social isolation of those who meet and enjoy the social meals. We will be working with partners to deliver this programme and planning to extend wherever possible.
The Chief Officer (Projects) will be working to identify funding opportunities to ensure the continuation of the charity after the three-year funding from the National Lottery and Robertson Trust comes to an end in March 2022. Additionally, and as part of this she will explore options for moving the organisation forward by identifying potential sites where Abundant Borders can build a base including office and meeting space, storage space and a polytunnel.
4. Financial review
This reporting period represents year two of a three-year funding package from The National Lottery Community Fund and The Robertson Trust. The organisation has successfully delivered Year Two outcomes to these main funders and has received funding for Year Three. Since this is the case, and notwithstanding the risk review, the charity is well funded for its current level of operations, with funding to deliver additional projects already secured.
It is the policy of the charity that unrestricted funds, i.e., monies which have not been designated for a specific use, should be maintained at a level equivalent to three months expenditure. The trustees consider that reserves at this level will ensure that, in the event of a significant drop in funding, they will be able to continue the charity’s current activities while consideration is given to ways in which additional funds may be raised. At the year end, the charity did not reach this target for unrestricted funds and will work to increase it to the appropriate level.
The trustees have assessed the major risks to which the charity is exposed and are satisfied that systems are in place to mitigate exposure to the major risks. A risk register has been adopted by the trustees and will be reviewed annually.
The charity intends to continue its charitable activities to achieve its aims and objectives.
A new three-year strategic plan has been produced by staff and trustees. This plan is available via the website and will form the basis of future growth and development. In summary we will:
- Increase community food growing through community gardens
- Encourage people to cook healthy meals from ingredients that they grow
- Work with national and local agencies to increase access to healthy, local, affordable food
- Support communities in creating social food events, e.g., lunch clubs
- Develop additional learning opportunities, including the introduction of SVQ level training
- Increase the social enterprise opportunities for the organisation
- Seek land on which to site new offices as a base from which the organisation can grow. A move to permanent office space will allow long-term and succession planning
- Seek land on which to build a polytunnel to maximise food growing and training opportunities
- Investigate the potential to create direct job opportunities within Abundant Borders for those gaining qualifications and training, e.g., a gardener’s co-operative.
In considering the operations, achievements, performance and finances of the charity, the trustees are satisfied that public benefit has been provided in accordance with the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 and guidance provided by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.
Structure, governance and management
The charity is a SCIO, number SC049008.
The trustees who served during the period and up to the date of signature of the financial statements were:
Mr M Benson
Ms R McArthur
Mr S Straughan
Ms J Haines
Ms T Bearhope
Suitably qualified trustees are recruited from the local network of organisations, agencies and third sector groups to meet the skills and experience needs of the board, with the support of the local TSI. New trustees are approved by members at the next available meeting.
New trustees are briefed on their obligations under charity law and provided with a copy of the constitution, strategic plan and financial statements as part of an induction process.
The Trustees report was approved by the Board of Trustees.
Accounts to end March 2021 can be viewed here
Accounts to end March 2020 can be viewed here
Accounts to end January 2019 can be viewed here.
Please note: Accounts were complied for the period April 2018 to January 2019. At this point Abundant Borders SCO46962 converted to SCIO SCO49008
Accounts to end March 2018 can be viewed here.