One day in spring 2015, Mitch Burt – a young, enthusiastic backyard gardener – was on his way to town from his home in Skilling through Bridport’s Community Orchard. It must have been a Thursday as the Orchard’s community allotment group were gathered and working away in their space tucked away at the top left corner of the Orchard. This group meets weekly in the growing season, providing access to land for food and a supportive community of fellow gardeners to work and learn alongside, raising some crops together and also offering 12 individual and accessible one metre square raised beds for personal growing.

Mitch was curious and decided to approach the community allotmenteers to find out what was happening. He’d not long stopped working at a local supermarket, which, in his words was pretty “soul destroying” and so he was actively searching for ways to use and improve his growing skills.

A chance encounter with Linda Hull, the local food co-ordinator for Communities Living Sustainably and also a member of the community allotment, led to Linda being able to introduce Mitch to the wider community food network in and around Bridport. Mitch says:  “That day in the Community Allotment was the starting point for some great experiences.  I’ve met lots of new people and got really involved with some great projects.”

At Ourganics, Mitch has taken part in several Plan B work days and has met a whole group of likeminded people. “I’m now doing a permaculture design course – it’s great to have this easy, local access to such training. It’s given me some great ideas and is teaching me a lot.”

He has also volunteered his time at the Edible Garden in St Mary’s working alongside an experienced grower. “It’s been a good experience to work in a managed system with more structure than my own garden. And with the Eco-club starting up I’m also having the opportunity to teach young people – the school garden is such a great resource helping us to link teachers, students and parents.”

This year Mitch found himself joining the board of the Community Orchard. “People ask me my opinion! It’s a great chance to share what I know and to be taken seriously.”

Reflecting on how CLS has been useful to him, Mitch says: “CLS speeded up the links I was able to make. Access to these experiences has helped to give me a focus and direction. I feel now like I’ve got a goal I can move towards – I’d love to own some land and be as self- sufficient as possible. Doing all this has given me a chance to use and improve my skills and knowledge and has led to such really positive change for me!”