Coming To A Restaurant Near You…Salad (Grown In Bute Park By Asylum Seekers)

Sophie Duran & Fissha Teklom

Salad leaves grown by asylum seekers, in the nurseries at Bute Park, will soon be appearing on restaurant menus around Cardiff after the City Council gave the green light to a new project.

Not-for-profit social enterprise, The Cardiff Salad Garden have reached an agreement with the city’s Parks Department which will allow them the use of an existing growing space to produce a range of high quality mixed baby leaf salads. Over 10 different seasonal varieties of edible leaves and flowers will be picked to order on a daily basis and then delivered by bicycle, providing top quality locally sourced produce for restaurants in the city’s vibrant food scene.

The project, which will provide volunteering opportunities for the city’s asylum seeker population, is the brainchild of experienced horticulturalist Sophie Duran and Fissha Teklom, who arrived in the UK in 2003 as a refugee from Eritrea and now works as a facilitator and interpreter for asylum seekers, refugees and young people in Cardiff.

The enterprising pair met at Riverside Market Garden, a project formerly run by Sophie Duran in Cowbridge which Fissha used to cycle ten miles a day to volunteer at. Talking about his experience, Fissha said: “I grew up in Eritrea in a rural area where agriculture was more than just commercial, it is our way of life. When I first came to live in the UK I felt lost, isolated and I didn’t fit in. Something that gave me some hope was working outside in a garden, being connected to the earth.”

“I moved to Cardiff from London because I love the beauty of Wales and it reminded me of home. I met Sophie volunteering at Riverside Market Garden as I wanted to be part of a wider community, having my hands in the soil gave me a sense of purpose. I wanted to share this feeling with other people and use nature to promote well-being. I am very excited to be working alongside Cardiff City Council with our project The Cardiff Salad Garden to enable others to have this experience.”

Talking further about the project, Sophie added: “The income from selling our salads will fund the project so that it is financially sustainable and can work with groups to promote positive well-being. We will run several weekly sessions of 2 hours, for a small number of people to learn horticultural skills, to share experiences as a group and build confidence.

“We hope people will feel welcomed, nurtured and part of the community of Cardiff. Being located in the centre of Bute Park is a fantastic location for people to be able to come and take part, for asylum seekers there are many barriers to participation, especially travel. Bute Park is easily accessible from across the city, by foot or bicycle. It is also close to our restaurants for delivery and we hope to encourage restaurants to further get involved in working with us and our volunteers to increase a sense of international community across the city.”

The project hopes to recruit volunteers from local organisations such as Oasis Cardiff and Four Winds. The growing sessions will be limited in number and structured to ensure there is adequate support, space and a nurturing environment for people to become part of.

Cabinet Member for Environment, Cllr Bob Derbyshire, said: “Cardiff has a long history of welcoming people from across the globe – many fleeing war and persecution. Supporting vulnerable people is a key priority for the council and I know the team are looking forward to welcoming The Cardiff Salad Garden to Bute Park. I’m delighted that we’ve been able to provide a home to this valuable initiative which will allow people to come and grow together and make Cardiff a fairer and even more inclusive society.”