Community urban agriculture plots take root across the capital and beyond
The pressures of price increases and the need to reduce food miles and carbon emissions are encouraging England's residents to take a new look at urban food production. Thanks to successful demonstration projects such as ABUNDANCE in Brixton, London, in which local residents have created a flourishing urban agriculture plot on a social housing estate, plots are springing up all over our towns and cities. Inportantly, this project, working with University College London and Transition Towns, has also delivered an urban agriculture mapping 'toolkit' to help identify suitable plots and bring them into community use.
At the end of 2008, Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Rosie Boycott, Chair of London Food, launched an innovative scheme to turn 2,012 pieces of land into thriving green spaces to grow food by 2012. In Middlesbrough, disused urban spaces were turned into fertile corners by more than 1,000 residents took part in a project with Groundwork South Tees to enable people to cultivate whatever space they had.
Capital Growth – the first initiative delivered by Rosie Boycott in her capacity as Chair of London Food – aims to identify suitable patches of land around London and offer financial and practical support to groups of enthusiastic gardeners or organisations who want to grow food for themselves and for the local community.
It is expected that a range of organisations will open up land to the scheme including borough councils, schools, hospitals, housing estates, utilities companies and parks. There are already community groups growing food on land across London - Capital Growth will help to expand these organisations whilst encouraging new ones.
Boosting the amount of locally grown food in London makes economic sense at a time of rising food prices, and it also has a range of health and environmental benefits, such as improving access to nutritious food in urban areas and helping to increase flood protection.
There is rising interest in self-grown food and inner London boroughs have waiting lists for allotments that can be decades long.
Boris Johnson said: 'Linking up currently unloved patches of land with people who want to discover the wonders of growing their own food, delivers massive benefits. It will help to make London a greener, more pleasant place to live whilst providing healthy and affordable food.
'This will aid people to reconnect with where their fruit and veg comes from and cut the congestion and carbon emissions associated with the transportation of food from miles away. Capital Growth is a win-win scheme - good for our communities and good for our environment."
Rosie Boycott said: “London has a good deal of green spaces – some derelict or underused - but not being used as well as they could be. We also have a veritable host of enthusiastic gardeners who are well equipped to turning derelict or underused spaces into thriving oases offering healthy food and a fantastic focus for the community.
Capital Growth will be run by London Food Link, part of the charity Sustain who are working for better food and farming to enhance people’s health and welfare and the environment. The pilot stage of the scheme running until March 2009 will identify and support the first 50 spaces, and is being funded by the London Development Agency. Beyond this, Sustain will be seeking future funding for Capital Growth, with the support of London Food.
Ben Reynolds, coordinator of London Food Link, said: 'We are delighted to be working with the Mayor of London to transform our city with 2,012 new food growing spaces. People from all over London are already contacting us, keen to be involved in Capital Growth.'
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