The UK’s food growing movement is capturing people’s imagination in local environmental sustainability issues and can help address emerging issues such as an increase in the need for food banks - but communities need support to identify land to grow on, according to a new report.
The Growing and Green Space learning report produced by Groundwork UK and The Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens looks at the progress communities have made over an 18 month period, as part of the Big Lottery funded Communities Living Sustainably (CLS) programme. The five year programme, supported by Groundwork(1) provided up to £1 million to twelve communities to test ways of dealing with the potential impact of climate change.
CLS highlights that practical growing activity is proving a good way to introduce people to healthy eating and sourcing food more locally and is providing an effective way to engage a range of people, young and old, in areas facing many challenges including high unemployment and low educational attainment.
The ‘Green Prosperity’ project in Hull works with local partner, East Hull Community Farm, to promote food growing and healthy cooking and eating to the local community through practical gardening activities. It has 100 regular participants who take part in gardening sessions, composting and horticulture training, food growing activities and a seed swap event. The project also run courses for families, schools and youth clubs on how to harvest prepare and cook the produce grown on the farm.
Andy Steele, Green Prosperity Community Co-ordinator, said: "Community growing can bring lots of social and health benefits, from boosting people's skills and bringing communities together, but identifying suitable land to grow on is crucial for ensuring these projects can be as sustainable as possible. Finding spare or underused land is generally not difficult wherever you are, but turning that land into a productive growing space can be a real challenge.
"We have found that building strong relationships with our local authority, social housing landlords, corporate and third sector partners and local residents, and working in partnership with them has been key to our success so far in developing this element of our project."
The learning report also suggests that despite the opportunities, it can be difficult for communities to find suitable land and progress often complex lease and land ownership negotiations and indicates that local land owners, especially local authorities and housing associations have a crucial role to play in making land available for community food growing projects.
Some CLS projects are employing innovative ways of finding land for growing, allowing them to bypass complex lease and land ownership procedures, with some projects working with local partners to create ‘meanwhile gardens’ – with one set up outside a McDonalds and one on a traffic island – allowing for the short term use of land as they can be set up with little financial and physical outlay and are easily dismantled and moved in the future if required.
Commenting on the report’s contents, Groundwork chief executive, Graham Duxbury, said:
“With food poverty increasing across the country and the rise in food banks, initiatives such as Green Prosperity have the potential to be replicated in other areas and provide an example of how a community can build their local resilience to this issue.
“These projects could provide inspiration for other community groups struggling with land issues and provide the opportunity to showcase what can be achieved by a local community should land become available.
“However, they require support if they are to achieve their full potential and we would like to see private businesses doing more to help progress community growing initiatives in their area.”
Download report summary
For further information about Groundwork or Communities Living Sustainably,
contact Garry Campbell, Communications Manager on 0121 2368565
Notes to Editors:
About Communities Living Sustainably
- CLS will run for five years, with the communities taking part providing inspiration to other communities across England and sharing what they have learned with one another. The Big Lottery Fund programme is supportedby the Groundwork UK Learning Partnership – five organisations with expertise in tackling climate change and helping communities to live more sustainably. The partnership comprises Groundwork UK, The Energy Saving Trust, The Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens and The New Economics Foundation and Building Research Establishment.