THE SOCIAL ROLE OF COMMUNITY FARMS. AND GARDENS IN THE CITY

Jeremy lies

Do we have a form of Urban Agriculture in the UK? If compared to the examples from Cuba or some African countries the answer must be no. But we do have a thriving network of community gardens, city farms, school farms, allotments and community run growing projects, all of which constitute urban food growing initiatives which, in total, engage some­thing approaching 10 per cent of the population in some way1.

That the urban area could be used for productive food growing was demonstrated in the Second World War, when large areas of urban parks, gar­dens and recreational areas were turned over to food growing. However, since the 1950s ‘home grown’ food has declined in importance as the power of supermarkets and the global transporta­tion of food has increased.

WHAT IS A COMMUNITY GARDEN OR A CITY FARM?

To start with we will define a community garden and a city farm. These are local projects managed for, and by, local community groups. They are sometimes run as partnerships with local authori­ties, but the essential feature is strong local involve­ment. They exist mostly in built-up areas, where their creation has been a response to the local community’s lack of access to open, informal, community-run green space.

City farms are also known as urban farms, chil­dren’s farms, or community farms. Allotments are not generally community-managed, but there is a growing movement for allotment groups to take on devolved management from the Local Authority which will move them from the ‘statutory’ sector (albeit with legal protection), and more towards the community-led sector. And within the allotment movement there is also a growing number of groups that are consciously setting up community managed working with innovative schemes to bring in more community support.

There is no ‘typical’ project, as each develops according to the local area and in response to the developing needs of the local community. These proj­ects deliver a wide range of community-managed services in response to local needs.

All community garden and city farm projects are run by a local management group and all have strong volunteer involvement. They are places where people of all ages and from all sections of the community are welcome.

Most projects provide food-growing activities, train­ing courses, school visits, community allotments and community businesses. In addition, some pro­vide play facilities and sports facilities, and after school and holiday schemes.