Growing urban agriculture: a tale of 2 cities

Dennis Touliatos, a PhD student at Lancaster University, reports back from an urban agriculture conference in Greece.

dennis toul I have just returned from an exciting conference on urban agriculture in Athens, that was  attended by young people from all over Europe.

Urban agriculture is all about growing food in cities – in parks, on rooftops, on grass verges,  up buildings, on window ledges and in almost every other space you can find to grow  plants.

I was looking forward to the conference because I have a passion for urban agriculture and  I was excited that it was held in my home town of Athens, in Greece.

Greece has been devastated during the last few years by austerity and an unsustainable debt. Food prices and unemployment have risen whilst wages and pensions have faced huge reductions. All of this has led many Greeks into food poverty. People struggle to access fresh and nutritious food- let alone sustainably grown food.

During the conference I learnt that urban agriculture is flourishing in Athens as a response to these challenges. There are grassroot groups and government efforts trying to free up more land for agriculture so anyone can access land and fresh food.

All of these findings made me think of my second home, Lancaster, and the exciting urban agriculture projects taking place there.

Local food trailThere is a Transition Town Lancaster food group which runs a Seed Library, located in Lancaster library, to save and share seeds with everyone.

The Incredible Edible Lancaster folk have planted the fruit tree orchard on the Ridge, the wild flower meadow on the pointer roundabout and Greaves community garden. They are also developing an edible plant nursery.

There is a lot of exciting research about urban agriculture and local food happening at Lancaster University, which also has an ‘edible campus’.

LESS is running the Growing Our Local Food Economy (GOLFE) project that is attempting to trial methods that grow Lancaster’s local food economy. And the Food Assembly continues to bring local producers in direct contact with consumers.

The ‘mother ship’ of urban agriculture in Lancaster is becoming Claver Hill community farm on the Ridge estate. Every Sunday you can see a group of dedicated ‘spud club members’ weeding, harvesting and setting up all sorts of DIY projects, whilst celebrating local food and community resilience.

To bring all these together cooking initiatives are starting to bloom with Linda Smalley’s project in Morecambe and a pay-as-you-feel café cooking nutritious meals for everyone in Lancaster.

To find more about these projects and to join the urban agriculture movement in Lancaster contact [email protected]

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