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Harvest update

After attending the Incredible Edible Lambeth Harvest Party and reflecting on this growing season, we realized how quickly time has passed, and how much City Farmers has done over the past six months.

In Spring, we were lucky enough to win small pots of funding from both Ordnance Survey’s Geovation and Timberland’s Earthkeepers funds, enabling us to buy materials and services to get our projects of the ground. So what have we done? It would be impossible to list all the amazing projects we’ve been part of, but here’s a taster of what we’ve been up to:

  • We’ve participated in several community events, giving out growing starter packs and advice.
  • We have started two new community gardens with the residents at Rupert Gardens, with plans to support least seven more new ventures across Lambeth soon.
  • We are providing logistical support to a wide range of existing growing groups, filling a much-needed role in the community.
  • We spoke at Kew Gardens’ Start festival, and represented Incredible Edible Lambeth at Jamie Oliver’s Big Feastival.
  • We had a stall at the Lambeth Country Show, where we gave away hundreds of plants in exchange for hundreds of completed surveys about growing habits. We also premiered our three maps, and gave advice on growing in our community.
  • We’ve helped community projects like the Brixton Energy Co-op and the Remakery in a variety of ways from copy-writing to engineering.
  • We’ve set up new initiatives in the community like upcycling estate windows into greenhouses, and our new project, to be announced this week. Stay tuned; it involves hops, growing and beer…

We have had such a positive six months, participating in exciting projects and talking to inspiring people. Thanks everyone, and happy harvest!

 

 

Making windows into greenhouses

Do you want a greenhouse?

For the last 50 years these windows have been fulfilling their role as windows in the Loughborough Junction Estate but their time has come: they are being replaced by double glazing to reduce heating bills and increase energy efficiency. You could see this as the end of their usefulness, but why should that be? Instead of becoming waste, they are going to help feed us.

City Farmers, working with with Green Engineers and the Remakery, will be taking windows from two estates as they are removed. We will be producing a range of bespoke greenhouses and cold-frames from these windows. The supply of windows is large but only available for a limited time so anyone who may want a greenhouse before next summer should register interest now.

Provisionally, payment will be totally negotiable depending on use and resources. Payment options will include but not limited to:

  • Paying for bespoke design and installation,
  • Participatory workshops producing free products for hard-up community groups,
  • Crowd source funding for larger volunteer groups,
  • Free cold-frames for carrying out seedling outreach.

We will be confirming the number of windows over the coming month so please can you register interest as soon as possible. The more information provided regarding what sort of size you would like the easier it is to determine what we should be stocking. In order to reduce costs of storage, we will only collect what we believe there is demand for.

For more information, to help or pre-order please contact us using the form below. Let us know who you are, where the greenhouse will be going, what size you’d like and anything else you think we should know.

Mapping and clearing

We’ve been doing a great deal of work behind the scenes here at City Farmers.

We showed off the maps we’ve been working on in print at the Lambeth Country Show, and we’ve had requests to put them online. They are still a work in progress, and we will be making them fully interactive, but for now here’s a taster of what we’ve been doing.

We’ve also been working hard to clear two new community gardens on the Loughborough Junction Estate. The sites are starting to look a bit more manageable, and there are plans afoot to plant an orchard, create herb gardens, wildlife habitats and a native wild flower area. We’re grateful to Lambeth’s Community Freshview, People Empowering People and the London Wildlife Trust for working with us and the residents on this project.

City Farmers will be quiet for a month or so as Pete and Helen are off camping in Europe for our honeymoon. See you all when we get back!

Kew and the Garden Museum

Many exciting developments have come out of our stall at the Lambeth Country Show, and we’re going to tell you about two of them.

Firstly, we’ve been asked to help the Garden Museum with part of their new exhibition, Garden City to Green City. We will be preparing a map, putting together some case studies of inspiring growing spaces, and talking a little about what we do. The whole exhibition sounds very interesting so do head down and check it out when it opens in September.

Secondly, we’ve been asked to speak at the Start@Kew Gardens festival. Start, is an initiative by HRH The Prince of Wales to inspire the UK public to take simple steps towards achieving more sustainable living. Together with Kew Gardens, they are putting on Start@Kew, a five day event full of ideas to give visitors simple sustainable living ideas that they can start doing to make a difference. We’ll be speaking about City Farmers and community growing projects on Sunday 28th August. Hopefully see you there!

There is much more to come, so watch this space!

Lambeth Country Show

Helen and Pete from City Farmers were at the Lambeth Country Show this year, and gave away hundreds of plants in exchange for hundreds of completed surveys about growing habits. We also premiered our three maps, and gave advice on growing in our community.

Helen and Pete by the City Farmers stall
Helen, Pete and the City Farmers stall

We were very pleased with the first outing of our gazebo, bought (along with all the plants, seeds, and everything else to make our stall complete) with the help of Ordnance Survey’s Geovation and Timberland’s EarthKeeper Fund. In the picture on the left you can also see the bicycle trailer the lovely Cycooldelic custom-made for us out of reclaimed wood. It has already proved invaluable and we expect to be out and about with it doing pop up workshops, delivering plants and clearing sites.

Being at the Lambeth Country Show was an excellent opportunity to interact with the general public, from green-fingered allotment experts to those with little or no experience of growing. We had huge demand for our seedlings, and will be releasing our interesting survey findings soon, but it was the maps that really got people talking.

Pete and a map
Pete and a map

We prepared three maps for the show. Our primary map shows the location and number of each growing space in Lambeth, with a key naming each number. We used this to show passers by what was in their area, and people were surprised and fascinated to see what was on their doorstep! Many people complained about the lack of growing space available to them, so this awareness of local community growing spaces has opened up the possibility of volunteering and growing with others. We plan to develop this map further so each growing space will have extensive meta data: opening times, produce grown, contact details, levels of volunteers and so on. The second map we printed takes the location of each site and looks at where there is a high concentration of growing spaces, and where needs new ones opening. We hope to use this to encourage intelligent planning of resource use, and aim to overlay data about demographic, population density and transport, in order to create a true picture of Lambeth’s food growing projects and how they serve the community around them. Our third map is a collation of aerial pictures of Lambeth, taken in the second world war. We are hoping to build a picture of what was grown where during the time we were most productive as City Farmers, and then see what we can learn from that.

We had a brilliant time making people aware of the growing spaces around them, talking about maps and growing, and developing connections between growing spaces. We’ll definitely be there next year!

Look how fun surveys are!
Look how fun surveys are!
People line up for survey fun!
People line up for survey fun!
Bua's bee house
Bua's bee house

Big Lunch update

City Farmers made an appearance at two Big Lunches on Sunday; one on Loughborough Estate and one on the Cowley Estate. We bought over 200 plants from the wonderful OrganicLea and took half to each site to give away for free to residents of the estates.

< Here’s the Loughborough Estate’s half of the plants (and some top soil!). We designed up some stickers to go on each plant with simple care instructions and suggestions for how to use the plants. We had a wonderful reception at both Big Lunches, with 80 plants being snapped up in less than an hour at Loughborough! We used the plants as a way to initiate an informal dialogue about growing, and found many of the people taking plants lived in the flats on the estates and had little to no experience of growing. The simple plant care instructions were very appreciated. The residents who did have experience with growing were very enthusiastic about the idea of new community gardens, particularly as we were asking for the residents to lead and design the project; this need for a sense of ‘ownership’ was something people felt very strongly about. We have set dates for clearing the land on Loughborough Estate, with help from the local community, Lambeth’s Community Freshview and the young adult payback scheme led by the London Wildlife Trust. It really felt like the Big Lunch plant giveaway was a great way to springboard the community project and get our message out there.

At Cowley Estate, there is already an established community garden, started up by Drew Woodhouse. At this Big Lunch we asked for something in return for our plants (not compulsory!) instead of just using it as a conversation starter! We asked for people to sign up to volunteer at the gardens, and got over 20% of people who took plants writing their name, address and number down, promising to give at least one hour of their time. Not a bad result!

Loughborough Estate Community Gardens

As previously mentioned, we’ve become involved with Loughborough Estate, specifically Rupert Gardens, where there are two areas of overgrown land that residents are keen to see in use but need help getting it cleared and organized. We’re collaborating with the residents and the council and hopefully this project will be blooming in time for next growing season! It’s a massive challenge and we’re raring to get going. So, here’s an introduction to what the site is like currently and what we plan to do with it….

Rupert Gardens< This is the entrance to Rupert Gardens, with one of the areas that residents of the estate want cleared on the right.

We met Nicholas Namdiokwulu, who grew up on the estate, at Brixton Active Citizens and he asked City Farmers to get involved in making the space useful to the residents. The space will be redone according to the needs of the residents, but ideas that we’ve been asked about so far include raised beds, an area for children, a BBQ area, a herb garden, a wildlife/wild flower area, flower borders and decking! Phew!

There are Rupert Gardens fencetwo strips of land, divided into several plots. The overgrown areas are full of dumped items and general rubbish. We spoke to all but two of the residents who have access to the gardens. Many of the residents we spoke to weren’t even aware that they were entitled to use the land, and most were immediately in favour of turning the whole lot into a multi-purpose community garden. One resident with children said, “my kids don’t go outside after school, but if there was a safe area for them to go and play this close then they could go out.” Another said that being able to have fresh vegetables growing outside would be a big help financially.

We got in touch with Lambeth Council’s Community Freshview, who have agreed to help us clear the area with the help of volunteers from the estate. The sites have such potential, and there’s a lot of good will in the community about getting these off the ground. We’ll keep our blog updated with information about the site and the progress of the project.

view from balcony

 

Big Lunch

We’re making an appearance at two Big Lunch events on Sunday 5th June: one at the wonderful Cowley Food Farm and one on the Loughborough Estate. We’ve ordered a load of edible plants from OrganicLea (a mix of strawberries, french beans, rocket, chillies and celery leaf) and we’ll be giving them out for free at both events. We hope to get these yummy plants into 200 homes with aftercare instructions to show just how easy growing delicious, nutritious food in small spaces can be.

We hope to use these plants as a way to talk to the residents of the estates about food and their perceptions of growing. At the Loughborough Estate we’ll also be getting more people on board for the creation of first community garden we’ve been asked to get on board with. I’ll write more about this amazing project later, when I’ve got the images from site.

Hope to see some of you down there!

Timberland/Project Dirt

We’re very happy to announce that we’ve been chosen as one of the winners of the Timberland Earthkeepers funding this year. We’ll be trying to stretch the money as far as possible, but there are three projects we’re involved with that will really benefit from this award.

Firstly, we’ll be stocking up on plants from OrganicLea to provide pop up plant giveaways at the Big Lunch events in Cowley Estate (working with the wonderful Drew) and Loughborough Estate. We’re giving away 200 plants (strawberries, chillies, beans, rocket and celery leaf) to residents alongside advice about growing in small spaces and details about growing areas close by.

We’ll blog more about this immense project shortly, but the next project to benefit from the Timberland Earthkeepers fund is the transformation of some run down land in Rupert Gardens in Loughborough Estate. This will be a resident-led project, and we will be working with the people on the estate to turn unused space into a community area with flowers, vegetables, herbs, a wildlife area and space for everyone to come together and relax.

Lastly, we’re happy to announce that City Farmers will be at the Lambeth Country Show at Brockwell Park this year. Come find us to see what we’re up to, to find out about the growing projects local to you, or to lay claim to one of many delicious plants we’ll be giving away. You’ll also hopefully be able to see our bicycle trailer made from reused materials – custom made by Cycooldelic at the wonderful Brixton Reuse Centre.

We are very excited about all these projects, and all the others we have in the pipeline. We’ll be keeping this blog up to date with our progress and you can follow us on Twitter @city_farmers.

Learning curve

One of the challenges we’ve faced here at City Farmers is learning the ways of the environmental sector. From multiple acronyms and bizarre hand signals at meetings to legal requirements and funding issues, it’s a world away from the more corporate workplaces we both come from. Going to workshops and training courses has been strange, interesting and fulfilling.

Continue reading Learning curve