Otter Rotters celebrating 15 years
- Credit: Archant
The Herald speaks to director Mandy Jennings about the challenges the group has faced - and overcome.
A director of green enterprise Otter Rotters has thanked the community as the group celebrates its 15-year anniversary.
Mandy Jennings said the Rotters has had to overcome several hurdles to continue operating. We asked her about her journey so far.
While you were facing all of your challenges, how did you feel?
“Our biggest challenge was reducing the stress on our team - some of whom found the ongoing uncertainty very upsetting. They didn’t understand why, having overcome one challenge, we were facing another - they were being told regularly by the community that they were doing great work and ‘we would be lost without you’ yet things were really tough.
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“Losing the use of our local site meant having to haul the loads out of area - increasing costs and draining our resources. One of our volunteers provided his own gloves and is mending them with duct tape to avoid asking for new ones. We’ll have them framed at some point!”
What’s your main highlight in 15 years? What’s your biggest low?
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Personally my highlight is seeing the team spirit and loyalty. You wouldn’t imagine that such a diverse team would gel the way they have and the commitment they show is inspiring. The low points are the lack of common sense in the processes - if you were designing any system you couldn’t imagine you’d set out to create such clumsy policy.
“When the flaws are pointed out there is a stonewalling to avoid common sense modifications - huge waste of community resources - our overall contribution is positive and yet this is achieved on the back of the people volunteering their time when really it should be paid work available to them. This can only happen when the fees we incur are proportional and the red tape is at a sensible level.
“The scheme was set up to be affordable to all and its true value to the community should be a matter of record.”
Are there any people/groups/organisations which have been pivotal in Otter Rotters still being around today?
“The outlets do not get enough recognition for their contributions - I would say here - shop local. A healthy local economy needs local businesses.
“Also a number of individuals have fought our corner over the years, some incurring costs and they know who they are, and I hope that they are proud they believed in the social enterprise ethos.”
What do you see the group achieving within the next five years? Do you need anything to achieve this?
Management of local resources is much more than producing compost. We need reinvestment as some of our equipment is proving too costly to keep repairing and the loss of our site was a huge setback.
“We need to renew planning on our old site to reinstate our full capacity and this will rebalance the economies of scale of the operation.
“We’ve also been active in increasing wellbeing through horticulture and improved diet and we hope to expand on this. Otter Rotter compost is being used to improve the structure of the soil at Broadclyst Community Farm and we are trialling new ideas of crop production. Steered by the results we’re hoping to increase the scale of activity - local, sustainable food systems are essential. Sadly many composting groups were forced to cease their activities over the last several years.
“Some of the people in these groups provided support and expertise to Otter Rotters along the way and it is very frustrating that they were forced to close down. I would like to pay tribute to the foresight, the hard work and tenacity of the people involved in this sector - there are deep flaws in soil management and they worked hard to make a positive contribution.
“We are extremely grateful to the communities of East Devon for their continued support - for the longer term they have safeguarded local resources for community benefit.”
For more information about Otter Rotters by calling www.otterrotters.co.uk