Sustain / Sustainable farming policy

Fringe Farming - the potential for peri-urban food growing

Credit: V Hird

Credit: V Hird

Sustain’s motivation to bring agroecological food production closer to urban communities has been strengthened by the inspiration of many growers in and around the urban fringe of UK cities; but it is time to upscale from being a fringe activity to a mainstream part of the food system.

The Fringe Farming project is a collaboration with partners across the UK to understand barriers, identify land opportunities and local actions, and develop national policy to enable agroecological farming at the edge of cities as part of a green economic recovery. With a new generation of farmers and growers looking for suitable sites to meet increased demand for healthy, ecological and culturally-appropriate foods, one of the key challenges to developing localised food systems is finding and accessing land to support equitable opportunities in the sector.

We want to see the creation of a wave of new market garden enterprises that connect the urban and the rural with growing and trading healthy food closer to markets, generating long-term green jobs and resilient economies, and contributing public goods in the process.

Currently gaps in access to information or buy-in from local councils and businesses means that opportunities for integrating the social and ecological benefits of peri-urban farming into resilient food systems are being missed. The Fringe Farming project seeks to address this through place-based research from Bristol to Glasgow; producing a series of events and practitioner forums to understand different contexts and co-create practical solutions and policy guidance.

Agroecological farming - at the heart of this project - takes an integrated approach to producing food where ecological and social principles underpin regenerative systems that work with natural cycles, develop fair livelihoods and equitable land access, and value farmers’ knowledge. The Food and Agriculture Organisation describes 10 elements of agroecology. 

Initial research into London's greenbelt in 2020

The project builds on initial research by Sustain's Capital Growth team in 2020 - with input from Shared Assets, the Greater London Authority (GLA) and many organisations and individuals working on farms - to investigate existing farm productivity in London’s Green Belt land, highlight data gaps, structural barriers, current opportunities and steps to enable this vision to take place.

An event in February last year provided opportunity to communicate findings, and further share experiences and ideas on how to access land to grow food, develop supply chains for produce, and support training needed to grow food at this scale.

The Fringe Farming in London briefing highlighted that the conversion of 1.4% of land growing cereals and grassland to vegetables around London could produce an additional 1.3 million kg of food for communities.

Four city partners in 2021 for new UK fringe farming research, action and policy

This year we will be building on Fringe Farming in London at a wider scale working with Shared Assets and partners Bristol Food Producers (Bristol), Glasgow Community Food Network (Glasgow) and ShefFood (Sheffield) to research access to land for peri-urban farming with a briefing and event produced in each city. In London, Capital Growth will be taking forward the actions from the 2020 report particularly highlighting case studies of borough councils supporting agroecological farming at the edge of the city in line with their social, ecological and economic targets.

In tandem with regional efforts, the Landworkers' Alliance will be setting up a peri-urban pracititioners' forum to build supportive networks, identify issues and share knowledge within the sector.

This exciting series of collaborative endeavours will culminate in:

  • Local action plans in the four cities using existing data, plugging gaps and where possible detailing explicit local opportunities for accessing land
  • An overall analysis/policy briefing on land availability and specific issues with a clear socio-economic case for increasing peri-urban farming as part of a green economic recovery
  • A model of progressing land for peri-urban farming that can be replicated in other cities. Our vision is that the resources we create can be used by any local authority, and any local group wishing to access peri urban land locally
  • A series of local policy recommendations describing what good-practice looks like for a council for increasing and supporting peri-urban farming - as developed with councils involved in the project and connecting with their existing commitments such as with climate change
  • National policy proposals to unlock land in the urban fringe for food production connected to local communities e.g. as part of Defra’s ongoing consultation on the role of peri-urban land in delivering Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) outcomes.

To support / learn more about the project:

1. Contact us with examples of councils supporting peri-urban agroecological farming (email:

2. Check out the work of the Fringe Farming partners (information below)

3. Sign up to Sustain newsletters

Fringe Farming partners:


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Sustainable farming policy: Sustain encourages integration of sustainable food and farming into local, regional and national government policies.

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Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.

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