CityHarvest: The feasibility of growing more food in London
City Harvest: The feasibility of growing more food in London
By Tara Garnett, July 1999. £30.00
Purchase from: Sustain
This 160 page report provides a thorough overview of the feasibility of food growing in London, a comprehensive list of all the necessary contacts required to develop a growing project, case studies, and how to take action yourself at an individual or community level.
This report is also a follow up to the 1996 Growing Food in Cities report.
London: an introduction
London is a large, complex and constantly changing city which is difficult to describe, let alone define. It contains extremes of wealth and health and, as well having areas of great beauty, suffers from environmental problems and contributes to environmental problems in the rest of the country and, indeed, the world. London's food system reflects these contradictory features, being at the centre of cultural renaissance in food yet at the same time experiencing food poverty. This manifests itself in a number of ways, including poor health, an underdeveloped food economy and, not least, a paucity of opportunities to grow food which would meet Londoners' varied needs.
- Greater London covers around 157,800 hectares, and around 60% of it is green space
- As many as 12 million people live or work in London, and 10 million visit every year
- Londoners eat 2,400,000 tonnes of food each year and produce 883,000 tonnes of organic waste
There is a surprisingly large amount of land in and around London where food could be, or is being grown. Some is farmed commercially, some is publicly owned (e.g. county farms, allotments, school gardens, parks), while parts are used by the voluntary sector (e.g. city farms, community gardens and community orchards). The proportion of land devoted to food growing has probably been declining, due to housing and other development pressures, funding shortages, and changes that are affecting farming as a whole. However, around half of London's households have gardens and the popularity of gardening is high and rising. Even among those keenest on ornamental gardening, there seems to be a growing interest in the edible, and a number of organisations exist to provide information, inspiration and encouragement, not only in the UK but globally.
- Almost 10% of Greater London's area is farm land, there are around 30,000 active allotment holders and an estimated 1,000 beekeepers
- Some 650,000 people go to London's city farms and community gardens each year
- Taken together, private gardens in Greater London occupy an area roughly the size of the Isle of Wight and the garden industry is worth an estimated £2.7 billion annually
People who grow food in cities are not, inevitably, environmentally benign. Commercial, public and individual growers can use the same proportion of energy and agrimchemicals, produce the same narrow range of produce, and generate as much waste as their rural counterparts. Similarly, they can be just as good for the environment as some rural farmers, but with the added advantage of being closer m literally m to consumers. Biodiversity can be enhanced, as the tighter confines of urban areas encourage variety, both within and between species of plants (and animals). Shorter food transport distances can reduce packaging (and, therefore packaging waste) and the environmental damage associated with "food miles". Homemcomposting, and other composting options (including for sewage) can diminish waste and provide the growing medium for more food.
- An estimated _ of allotment holders use insecticides, but almost the same proportion compost their waste
- Composting kitchen waste could eliminate 40% of household rubbish, and research suggests that compost can reduce diseases in strawberries and peas
- Some 60% of Londoners said poor air quality and too much traffic topped their list of health concerns – locally grown food could reduce food transport, so improving air quality
Unlike for other farming sectors, there is currently no financial or other Government support specifically for the urban food grower. There is little research data on the economic value of citymgrown food, although conventional measures of value seem unlikely to capture its multidimensional worth, even at current levels. And the potential is tremendous. Based on experience in London, the UK and internationally, the capital could farm livestock, a wide range of fruit, vegetables and herbs, honey, speciality mushrooms and fish. Processing and marketing, as well as production, remain underdeveloped, and farmers' markets, Women's Institute markets, Local Exchange Trading Schemes, box schemes and so on would all merit further research and development, by local authority purchasers or commercial companies. The same is true of composting and ancillary industries.
- Several species of fish have returned to the Thames as its water quality improves
- The value of London's composted waste has been estimated at £6.1 million, and could generate 350 full time equivalent jobs
- Thames Water sells treated sewage and, in the process, generates enough methane to supply power to 6,000 homes
There is a great deal of anecdotal evidence that growing food in cities can be good for your dietary, physical and mental health. It is difficult, but not impossible, to measure these health benefits more rigorously though it has not been done, to our knowledge, in this country. "Hard" and "soft" data show that growers tend to eat more fruit and vegetables, be more active, and to report a better quality of life than nonmgrowers. This holistic approach lends itself well to Government's policy of improving public health, and there is much scope m currently undermexploited m to incorporate food growing into Health Action Zones, Health Improvement Programmes and Healthy Living Centres, as well as into settings such as healthy schools and healthy workplaces.
- We should eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day to improve our health. Average UK consumption is around three portions, but food growers tend to eat more than average.
- Preliminary findings from research into conservation work as a "green gym" show that participants' strength improves
- People with mental health problems regularly report that growing food and other plants significantly improves their quality of life
For some, food growing is a way of coping – rather than communing – with local people: a chance to get away from it all in a peaceful, productive haven. For others, growing food with other people is a way of stimulating friendships with people from a wide range of different backgrounds. Food growing schemes can be a focus for genuine partnerships, helping to rebuild local structures, both physical and institutional. Such projects can also generate a sense of ownership and responsibility, and provide a way for people who have been isolated or disaffected m unemployed people, young people, senior citizens – to reconnect with and make a valued contribution to their neighbourhood. Supporting urban agriculture can also be a way for local employers to show their commitment to the area.
- Community food growing can provide a focus for a wide range of icembreaking social and celebratory events
- Local authorities are already investing in food growing initiatives as part of their urban regeneration programmes
- Some food projects are beginning to integrate the food chain, either "forwards" (by exploring outlets for produce they have grown) or "backwards" (thinking about growing their own food to cook, or sell through a comop)
Education and training
The process of growing food can provide almost limitless opportunities for learning, as many educational institutions have already discovered. It can be adapted to all ages and abilities, and can be as structured or as informal as required, leading nowhere other than up the garden path, or to a range of qualifications and to employment. most activity is currently focused on younger children and on those with less academic ability, as there is often more flexibility and less examination pressure. Urban agriculture's potential for contributing to curriculum development and the education of older children and adults could be further developed. Similarly, food growing could provide far more opportunities for employmentm related training than many people realise.
- An inspection of a primary school made a point of praising their food growing activities and urged them to maintain the initiative
- Some 700 schools are members of Learning Through Landscapes, a charity that greens school grounds for educational and community benefit in London
- The environmental "industry" is one of the world's fastest growing sectors, so training in sustainable technologies for growing, processing and distributing food will be essential if the UK is to take its place in that market
Sustainable land use
Food can be grown without "land" as we traditionally conceive it, for example on roofmtops, in window boxes and in soil-less systems. However, land remains central to the future of urban agriculture. The most space and, therefore, potential, probably lies on the urban fringe, though complex ownership structures and planning policies inhibit its development for this purpose. Yet built up areas can also yield useful growing spaces, such as parks, housing estates, temporarily vacant land and, of course, the type of food growing land most people think of – and which remains invaluable – allotments. many people worry that urban land will be too contaminated to produce food safely, and the problems – particularly the cost of soil testing and remediation m should not be underestimated. But there are a number of lowmcost ways to solve (or avoid) the problem, and much London land is just as suitable for food growing as anywhere else.
- A number of Planning Policy Guidance notes could be used to protect and enhance land for growing food in London
- Around 14% of Londoners already grow some food in their own gardens, and free or lowmcost advice and equipment could increase this substantially
- Raised beds, using barrier hedges and mulches, careful selection of crops, and thorough washing of produce can avoid most contamination risks, which are lower than most people think in many areas
How much could London produce?
It is probably impossible to calculate accurately how much food London could produce, given the multitude of complicating factors to consider. It depends for instance, on what policies are in place to support urban food growing and on practical issues such as soil contamination. The figures below are simply estimates of the proportion of various land types which could be made available given strong political will. The potential productivity is based on an estimated average yield per hectare supplied by those active in the community gardening/allotments movement.
The calculation is based only on fruit and vegetable production. Setting aside land for other uses, such as beekeeping or animal rearing would generate a different result. It should also be noted that the calculation does not take into account the potential yields from window boxes, rooftops, street fruit trees and many other areas where food could be grown.
It is hoped that, while very approximate, the figure might provide a starting point for discussion and further, more detailed research. Using a productivity level of 10.7 tonnes/ha drawn from research into allotment yields, London could produce around 232,000 tonnes of fruit and vegetables. Taking the World Health Organisation's recommendation that we should eat around 0.5kg of fruit and vegetables a day (five portions), the amount potentially available would supply Londoners with 18% of their daily intake - roughly one of the recommended five portions a day.
RecommendationsThis section summarises the recommendations made throughout the report, grouped together under the following headings:
Recommendations that encourage two or more departments or agencies to work together on particular policies are repeated under each department or agency heading.
- Local statutory agencies
- The Greater London Authority
- National Government
- Voluntary organisations
Local statutory agencies
in outer boroughs should incorporate and promote sustainable agriculture within the context of their countryside management strategies
- should promote food growing within local Agenda 21 fora
- should work with local allotment associations to consider allocating parts of allotment sites to organic gardeners, and to promoting sites with high vacancy rates as organic only sites
- should promote allotments in appropriate ways to different interest groups including unemployed and low waged people, the elderly, families and people of ethnic minority origin
- should promote self management of allotment sites and assist with examples of good practice
- should promote community and home composting and develop and/or support door to door organic waste collection schemes
- should establish onmsite composting schemes in parks and use boroughmcomposted waste in their landscaping activities instead of peat and other bought in soil improvers
- should aim to have 70% of households with gardens composting their waste by 2005. measures to achieve this could include distributing free or subsidised composting units, advice and workshops, trained volunteers, composting hot lines and making available chippers to handle woody materials
- should develop composting schemes for market and other commercial organic waste
- should promote biodiversity by planting heritage varieties of fruit trees and edible plants in parks and streets
Economic development agencies
in outer London boroughs
- should encourage farming tenants to convert to organic production by offering them rent rebates during the conversion period
- should develop the potential of local authority owned county farms as examples of best practice in sustainable agriculture
- should examine ways of stimulating and supporting local food production, processing, marketing and associated industries, including local food growing schemes, urban fringe farms, box schemes, farmers' markets, food growing equipment and seed companies, composting activities and so on.
Regeneration partnerships and community development
- should incorporate local food growing activities as a means of linking jobs, environmental improvement and health promotion into delivery plans for New Deal for Communities, the Single Regeneration Budget and other regeneration initiatives, provided that local communities support and participate in managing such projects
- should provide continuity of support, staff and funding for schemes
- should seek to purchase food as locally as possible, within a best value framework >
Health promotion agencies and NHS Trusts
- should develop and support local food growing projects within the context of Health Action Zones, Health Improvement Programmes and other health promotion strategies
- should incorporate food growing into other initiatives including food coops, community cafés and exercisemonmprescription schemes and should consider making healthmauthority owned land available for the purpose
- should evaluate the mental and physical health benefits of food growing schemes and build upon their experiences
- should work with area based regeneration programmes to develop food growing projects as a means of linking health, jobs and environmental benefits
Education, training and employment agencies and Education Business Partnerships
- in outer London boroughs should maintain and develop Council owned farms as centres for training in sustainable agriculture and for educational visits.
- should fund informal and certified courses in sustainable food growing methods both onmsite, at adult education institutes, and offmsite at community run venues
- should link the Environmental Task Force and the Voluntary Sector Option elements of the New Deal for Employment to food growing schemes
- should promote food growing activities in first, primary, secondary and special schools and further and higher education colleges
- should work with health authorities and others to develop food growing activities as part of Healthy Schools Initiatives and in outmofmschool activities such as aftermschool clubs
- should acknowledge, promote and support the educational work of city farms, community gardens and other relevant voluntary groups
- should consider funding ‘grower in the community' educational outreach worker posts, to stimulate and support education related food growing activity
Land use and planning departments
- should specify the value of urban food growing in their Unitary Development Plans (or equivalent, after 2000)
- should continue to maintain allotments even in areas where there is no present demand and examine alternative uses for vacant plots, including community gardens and orchards and wildlife areas
- should consider using surplus land surrounding municipal buildings and housing estates for food growing
- should promote food growing activities to self managed housing estates, including offering incentives for composting
- should consider using neglected and underused pockets of land in parks for food growing
- should provide guarantees of land tenure for established community food growing schemes
The Greater London Authority
- should promote and develop food growing activities as part of its duty to promote sustainable development, within the context of its Spatial Development Strategy, as part of its specific responsibilities to improve the environment, manage London's waste and transport systems and protect the capital's biodiversity and through its role in promoting Londoners' health
- the London Development Agency should promote urban food growing, processing and marketing as well as the development of composting initiatives and compost markets, within the context of its responsibilities to improve London's skills base and regional competitiveness.
- should, as a Best Value authority, seek to purchase food as locally as possible
- should advocate organic food production on allotment sites, in gardens and on other urban land
- should promote composting of domestic, municipal and sewage waste
- should promote local consumermproducer links such as farmers' markets and box schemes
- should promote sustainable food related intermediate labour market employment
- should work with Thames Water Utilities to explore composting options as an alternative to the incineration of sewage
- should aim to have 70% of households with gardens composting their waste by 2005.
- should support and guide local authorities in their work to promote urban food production by endorsing the recommendations to local authoritities, above
- should undertake research into the most appropriate crops to grow in urban areas and into low cost testing and remediation options for contaminated land
- should undertake research into the potential for developing food related industries, from production through to processing, marketing and waste management, and marketing this with appropriate labelling
National GovernmentMinistry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (mAFF)
Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR)
- should work with the DfEE and the DETR to develop both training and work schemes for unemployed people in food growing, including by providing access to land and start-up funds
- should commission research into the most appropriate crops to grow in urban areas; into low cost testing and remediation options for contaminated land and into the potential for developing sustainable small scale foodmrelated enterprises in production, processing, marketing and waste management
- should promote urban agriculture as an industry with a future, particularly to young people and people from ethnic minority backgrounds
- in partnership with the DTI and the DfEE, should support and promote small scale horticultural production, food processing, distribution and composting as part of a growing environmental industry
- should increase support for the horticultural industry, for small scale organic producers, and particularly for small scale organic horticultural producers
Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)
- Planning Policy Guidance should highlight the role of sustainable agriculture in enhancing the quality of Green Belt land and green urban areas and contributing to a sustainable transport policy
- should increase its composting targets for households with gardens from 40% to 70% by 2005
- should develop marketing standards for compost in partnership with mAFF and other relevant departments and non governmental agencies
- should research measures to treat sewage to standards suitable for food production
- should highlight food growing in future regeneration bidding guidances, including the Single Regeneration Budget and New Deal for Communities
Department of Health (DH)
- in partnership with mAFF and the DfEE, should support and promote small scale horticultural production, food processing, distribution and composting as part of a policy to promote civic entrepreneurship, and as one element of a growing environmental industry.
- should promote the development of markets for compost, and support science and technology to support sustainable, cuttingmedge developments such lowminput hydroponics
- should shift the focus Food from Britain away from promoting British food for export to promoting local foods for local consumption
Home Office (HO)
- should include the promotion of food growing in its strategies for healthy eating, physical activity and mental health
- should acknowledge and promote the beneficial link between sustainable food production and health
Department for Education and Employment (DfEE)
- should encourage businesses to support employee involvement in community food growing projects
- should encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to take part in community food growing activities, as part of government's policy on volunteering
- should encourage work in food growing and related industries as community service options for offenders and people on probation
Department for Culture, media and Sport (DCmS)
- as part of its curriculum review should acknowledge the contribution of food growing to: core curriculum teaching, personal social and health education, citizenship education and sustainable development
- should work with mAFF and the DETR to develop training and work schemes for unemployed people in food growing, including by providing access to land and startmup funding.
- in partnership with mAFF and the DTI, should support and promote small scale horticultural production, food processing, distribution and composting as part of a growing environmental industry.
- should promote food growing through Intermediate Labour markets
- should commission research into why people take up food growing, and the cultural barriers to food growing and explore ways to overcome them as part of a strategy to integrate sustainable development into mainstream culture
- should promote allotment and community gardening as a form of active recreation for people of all ages, including the elderly
- should examine ways of promoting sustainable food production, processing, marketing and waste management within the context of its leisure and tourism strategy, including by highlighting the potential of initiatives such as "floating food markets" on the River Thames
- should allocate funding to develop and implement a strategy for promoting and supporting sustainable urban agriculture, for example, by offering tax incentives to water companies to pay farmers to farm organically, thereby reducing the costs of cleaning up agrimchemical contamination of water
- should consider introducing new taxes so that food prices more accurately reflect the environmental costs of their production and distribution, such as a distance tax on goods vehicles and an agrimchemicals tax
- should promote employee involvement in community food growing activities as part of employer supported volunteering schemes
- should support local community foodmrelated projects with, among other things, funding, employee involvement, business advice and coverage and publicity in inmstore and inmhouse magazines
- should seek to develop ways of sourcing food more locally, including where possible, from urban producers and in particular should seek to encourage organic food production
- should develop links with local suppliers for staff canteens
- should consider ways of using green space, rooftops and other areas on, in and around business premises for food growing
- should promote and support food related educational activities through their involvement in Education Business Partnerships
- already running food growing projects should seek to broaden the range of people engaged in food growing activities, including by developing appropriate publicity material, providing decent working conditions and by working closely with organisations who represent the communities in question
- should provide New Deal for Employment training placements, perhaps by aligning themselves with the Voluntary Sector Option, rather than the less popular Environmental Task Force Option
- should offer volunteers on food growing projects accredited training opportunities
- should develop links with local food growers and food growing organisations as a means of sharing information, strengthening the collective voice of food growers and developing better ways of working and growing
- that do not run food growing projects should consider ways of developing food growing as a means of achieving their organisational aims and objectives, or of incorporating, where appropriate, food growing into existing projects
Healing Gardens, Hillingdon
Jill Nicholas, Groundwork Thames Valley, Denham Court Drive, Denham, Uxbridge, Middlesex UB9 5PG tel:01895 832662
Grazebrook Treescape Project
Grazebrook Primary School, Lordship Road, London N16 tel: 0181 802 4051
The Natural Growth Project
Jenny Grut, Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, 2 Langland Gardens, London NW3 6PY tel: 0171 435 4416
SHARE Horticulture Project
Jenny Shand, 64 Alternburg Gardens, London SW11 1JL tel: 0171 924 2949
Julie Brown, The Firestation, 61 Lewisham Road, London N16 tel:0171 923 0412
Dartford Road Allotments
Graeme Laidlaw, 262 Princes Road, Dartford DA1 2PZ tel: 01322 409 184
John Turp, 55a Chomeley Park, Highgate N6 5EH tel:0181 341 3657
Cable Street Community Garden
Jane Sill, 101 Mathilda House, St Katherine's Way, London E1 9LF, tel: 0171 480 54 56
Surrey Docks City Farm
Daphne Ferrigan, James Taylor, Sarah Plescia or John Duignan, South Wharf, Rotherhithe Street, London SE16 1EY tel: 0171 231 1010
The Proper Job Community Comoperative
3 Fernliegh, New Street, Chagford, Devon TQ13 8BD tel: 01647 432616
Also see: International Planning Studies
Volume 4 Number 3 October 1999
Food for Urban Spaces: The Development of Urban Food Production in England and Wales
Ruth Martin & Terry Marsden
Growing Food in Cities
A report to highlight and promote the benefits of urban agriculture in the UK
Written by Tara Garnett
June 1996 90 pages
94 White Lion Street
London N1 9PF United Kingdom
This excellent report includes recommendations on policy integration; funding, support and promotion; land and water issues. On every other page the author has included a detailed case study of one of the UK's many urban agriculture programs for a total of 38. There is also a very useful 'Sources' chapter with paragraph descriptions of many UA support groups in the UK.
Why grow food? Why in cities? Why now?
- Community Development
- affirming identity and active citizenship
- combating discrimination
- preventing crime and rehabilitating offenders
- Economic development
- training for jobs and for living
- creating local goods and services
- building an alternative economy
- learning at school
- acquiring skills beyond school
- involving people with special needs
- increasing biodiversity
- tackling waste
- reducing transport
- improving diets
- encouraging physical activity
- promoting mental health
- stimulating volunteering
- generating sustainable tourism
- developing arts and crafts
- Sustainable neighbourhoods
- reviving allotments
- diversifying parks
- regenerating housing developments
- Issues affecting food growers in cities
- money and other inputs
- people, knowledge and skills
Excerpt from Growing Food in Cities (footnotes removed)
Cities and the Environment
At present. most cities are highly unsustainable, Although they only cover 2% of the earth's surface, cities consume 75% of its resources. The social, environmental and economic impact of a city, country or even an individual upon world resources has been described as its "footprint''.
London's total footprint extends to about 125 times its surface area of 159,000 hectares, to nearly 20 million hectares. Home to only 12% of Britain's population, London nevertheless requires the equivalent of the entire productive land area of Britain to sustain itself.
Why is this so? Partly because we use more than we need and partly because we do not use what we do need efficiently. According to Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food calculations, London requires 2,400,000 tonnes of food a year. which it imports from all over the world. Every day, London disposes of 6,600 tonnes of household waste of which only some 5% is recycled, even though much of this is compostable organic matter.
In effect, in their present form. cities are like parasites. feeding upon a global hinterland which is increasingly unable to sustain them. But the relationship is not intrinsically an exploitative one, Indeed, cities are potentially highly sustainable, and one aim of this report is to show that through urban food growing. the country can, in a sense, be brought to the town - to the advantage of both. In the words of the European Union Green Paper on the Urban Environment "Recreating the diverse multi-functional city of the citizen's Europe is . . a social and economic project for which 'quality of life' is not a luxury but essential."