Rise in communities growing their own food to beat recession

A new report explores the rise of the new urban market gardener making money out of the hunger for ultra-local food.

A new report [1] explores the rise of the new urban market gardener making money out of the hunger for ultra-local food.

The image of food growing in cities has long been one of bearded old men on allotments, or city farms where children go to pet animals. But a new report shows how a quiet revolution has been going on with thousands of new urban community run food growing projects setting up around the UK. The new report ‘A Growing Trade’ produced by Local Action on Food, shows how an increasing number are selling their produce, with examples including the first Aquaponics Greenhouse in Scotland, producing fish and salads, and Hackney Grown herbs being sold to high-end restaurants [2].

Polly Higginson, Local Action on Food officer and author of the report said: “There has been a real change in attitude in the community food sector towards how they see their projects.  Making money is important, and gives a sense of pride and value to what people are doing.  Trading is a good opportunity to generate income to contribute towards project costs and to lift the ambitions of the people involved.”
Over 1500 new community food growing spaces have been set up in London alone since 2008 through London Food Link’s Capital Growth project.  A number of groups running these spaces are now exploring how, by selling their produce, they can replace funding for their community work which has dried up due to government spending cuts. Capital Growth is helping link suitable growing spaces with restaurants and market stalls and is running an event on 17th January to link London’s caterers and food growers preparing for the 2012 growing season [3]. 

Kate De Syllas, from Wenlock Herb Garden in Hackney, one of the Capital Growth spaces featured in the report, added:
“If we want to grow food in the city, it is all very well to have an easy going, community group, with a cosy attitude to it, but if gardens are to remain open and growing and the urban agriculture issues are to get any place on the government’s agenda then we need to get a bit more hard nosed about it.”

Polly Higginson, the reports author concluded:
“Although community food growing has come a long way there are still many challenges, particularly access to land, and developing the marketing skills of the community growers. Food growing is hard work, but there are opportunities for young entrepreneurs to earn some money if they’re prepared to get their hands dirty.”

A Growing Trade is available to download at www.sustainweb.org/publications.
Media enquiries: Clare Horrell, email: clare@sustainweb.org
Ben Reynolds, tel: 07939 202 711, email: ben@sustainweb.org

Notes to editors

1. The research for A Growing Trade:  A guide for community groups that want to grow and sell food in our towns and cities was undertaken by Sustain’s Local Action on Food network (https://www.sustainweb.org/localactiononfood/), a national network of local food projects that are taking action for a healthier and more sustainable food system. Local Action on Food has organised two events to help community food growing projects become economically viable:
- Getting Down to Business (https://www.sustainweb.org/localactiononfood/getting_down_to_business/) and
- Grow your own Business (https://www.sustainweb.org/localactiononfood/growing_your_own_business/). 
Local Action on Food is funded by the Big Lottery’s Making Local Food Work programme (http://www.makinglocalfoodwork.co.uk/). The project helps people to take ownership of their food and where it comes from by providing advice and support to community food enterprises across England.

2. Moffat CAN, Old Church Depot, Annanside, Moffat, DG10 9HB
Moffat CAN runs an allotment site and community market garden and also has the first Aquaponics Greenhouse in Scotland, producing tilapia fish.

The Wenlock Herb Garden, The Wenlock Estate, Hackney, London
This commercial community garden is situated on a housing estate in Hackney, London and grows herbs to sell to local restaurants.

3. Capital Growth (https://www.capitalgrowth.org/) is a project of London Food Link(http://www. Londonfoodlink.org/) and is working to create 2,012 new community food growing spaces in London by the end of 2012. January will see it reach its 1500th space. Capital Growth is funded by the Mayor of London and the Big Lottery Fund’s Local Food Programme. For more information on the 17th January event, please contact Eloise Dey on Eloise@sustainweb.org or 0203 5596 777.


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Local Action on Food: The Local Action on Food network was run as part of the Big Lottery funded Making Local Food Work programme, 2007 to 2012. It has now closed.

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